Merriwa district farmers call on TransGrid to provide vital information on proposed transmission lines that will run through their district

The cattle and lamb markets are at record levels, grain prices are great, the wool market is looking up and the summer has provided plenty of good rainfall across the district.

Jack Carrigan, 'Bow Forest', Merriwa. Photo supplied.

Jack Carrigan, 'Bow Forest', Merriwa. Photo supplied.

After three years of heartbreaking drought Merriwa farmers were hoping to well not so much as take it easy but simply have a bit of a breather and enjoy the good times.

The only immediate threat is a troublesome mice plague that has required aerial baiting for those growing summer crops.

And therein lies an issue - how will farmers, whose properties lie in the path of a proposed $39.7 million transmission line and associated infrastructure project, bait those rodents if you can't get the planes to fly near the transmission lines.

The transmission line's proponent Transgrid wants to construct a high voltage 500 KV power line, an electricity superhighway 180km long, through productive farming land which runs from Merriwa north west towards Cassilis and then south of Dunedoo

"I have spoken to a couple of aerial crop dusters about the project and they are unsure if they can operate near the transmission lines," says Jack Carrigan, 'Bow Forest', Merriwa who has had to aerial bait this summer as the mice attacked his sorghum crops.

"So we want to know how we will manage these types of issues should the transmission line project get the green light."

Mt Carrigan is not opposed to the project per se saying if we need this as part of critical state infrastructure to adopt to changing power generation then so be it but please provide affected landholders with all the information they seek.

"We cannot make informed decisions without the right information thats all we are asking the proponent TransGrid to provide us with," he said.

On the TransGrid website it says the company is working with the NSW Government to plan a new transmission infrastructure for Australia's first coordinated Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) in the State's Central-West Orana region.

TransGrid is planning new transmission lines, substation(s) and related infrastructure to support the delivery of a pilot REZ in the Central-West Orana region.

The proposed transmission lines will run north-west from the existing network near Merriwa, passing south of Dunedoo before connecting to the existing network east of Wellington. The study corridor, also includes an option to extend further south near Lake Burrendong.

To date TransGrid has held 11 community sessions with around 230 attendees in Wellington, Elong Elong, Dunedoo, Leadville, Gulgong and Cassilis, which has provided valuable feedback to the project team.

Merriwa district landholders question TransGrid representatives at a recent meeting held in Merriwa. Photo supplied.

Merriwa district landholders question TransGrid representatives at a recent meeting held in Merriwa. Photo supplied.

Unfortunately after the first of what were to be three meetings, held in Merriwa, the other two were postponed. New dates are expected to arranged soon with a TransGrid spokespersons saying we would encourage all community members to come along to hear more about the project and provide their feedback on what is being proposed.

Peter Campbell 'Tooloongatta' Merriwa whose property is at the southern end of the project said his home is right in the middle of the 'study corridor' and should that route be chosen his family farm would be split in half.

"How do we operate with those constraints. This is prime agricultural land and even during the drought we were still productive growing crops, cattle and lambs," he said.

"We have been told we can't operate machinery greater than 4.3 metres in height near the transmission lines. Well that restriction takes out most of our gear - headers, boomsprays, tractors. I mean how do we farm with those restrictions."

Mr Campbell estimates 3000 acres of agricultural land between Wellington and Merriwa will be affected and no landholder in its path can get information about compensation and why this route is likely to be selected.

"Our understanding is the final route has to be selected by June 2021 and to date we cannot get answers from TransGrid to any of our questions," he said.

He described the public meeting as simply a 'box ticking exercise' adding we have not been offered any alternative routes.

Both Mr Campbell and Mr Carrigan have another concern which is the impact on land values on the properties that will be home to or adjacent to the lines which require an 80 metres easement and the towers located 350 metres apart.

"Surviving the drought took so much equity from so many local landholders a hit to the value of their farm with this infrastructure being built could really push them over the edge," said Mr Carrigan.

"Do we have to pay the land rates on the land on which the transmission lines traverse, do we have to maintain the easement, will their be increase in fire hazards - so many questions and no answers."

Mr Carrigan said landholders wanted fair and just compensation.

"The lack on any information is making the community angry and causing mental health concerns especially coming on top of the drought," he said.

"We just started to relax now we fell we are back in the trenches."