What’s in it for us? 10 Questions for Marinus
Politicians, newspapers and corporate spinners often talk about the importance of community engagement, but our local experience is that they never really listen.
Over the last year, the north-west has been subjected to millions of taxpayer dollars of ‘community consultation’ from UPC and TasNetworks, mostly under the ‘Marinus’ brand – but our questions are handled by PR professionals, and either get answered with spin or ignored.
The ‘Marinus Project’ or ‘Marinus Link’ has come to mean anything the politicians say it means, but if it and the new transmission lines go ahead as planned, it’s a huge burden on our community, and we want our questions answered. Here are a few of them.
1. When UPC own the main transmission line from the ‘North-west Renewable Energy Zone’, what will stop them from blocking competitors’ access to it? Will each new wind-farm need their own transmission line?
When politicians leave energy policy to ‘the market’, chaos rules. Because TasNetworks is legislatively obliged to hook up any new power project, any planning they do is just trying to make it work. All of this results in locals being railroaded to get windfarm projects like UPC plugged in – just to sell our wind-power to the mainland.
2. Doubts are growing whether the Marinus Link stacks up economically. We don’t want politicians’ promises about ‘jobs and growth’ – we want evidence that we benefit. How many windfarms will be built? If they and the power lines wreck our landscapes, what are the costs to our communities, tourism jobs, and environments?
If the EPA let a rotten project like UPC’s Robbins Island proposal go ahead, then what and where next? How many transmission lines will devastate north-west Tasmania in order to ship Tassie wind-power to the mainland for private profit? When the infrastructure is built, what jobs will be left for us?
3. The big power lines need 60m wide easements through forests – an enormous area, 170 kilometres long, which will fill with weeds. How will UPC-TasNetworks stop the herbicides used to keep these easements clear from entering our water supplies?
The easements will cause drying, erosion and weeds. TasNetworks are dodging responsibility, claiming they cannot tell landholders what to do with their own land that the power lines cross, but binding them to contracts that allow TasNetworks to keep the land permanently clear. Are a few workers spraying a tanker of glyphosate under the power line the only real long-term local jobs we’ll get from Marinus?
4. Will TasNetworks be assessing increased fire risk from the lines and easements running through our forests? Will they be using climate change models?
The transmission line will change the landscape, increasing the fire risk. Prevailing wind howls off the west coast, and a 60 metre wide wind tunnel created by the easement means fires will hit communities quicker, especially in our warming climate. Will these realities expose UPC-TasNetworks to Class Action suits alleging culpable negligence after a fire?
5. Will TasNetworks compensate communities, businesses, landowners for lower property values, and lost tourism business?
UPC-TasNetworks have refused to acknowledge the damage they’ll do to our community. Their stance is that there are ‘Directly Affected Landholders’, whom they have to pay, and those next door whom they can legally ignore.
6. TasNetworks breach at least half of their own route selection criteria by ploughing through the Loongana Valley, so isn’t cost the only real criteria?
The criteria they breach include proximity to houses and businesses, visual impacts, tourism, planning and environmental policy, impacts on native vegetation, threatened plants and animals, and impacts on areas of local and state significance. TasNetworks PR deny that they put any ‘weighting’ on any criteria, but all the evidence indicates cost is the real priority.
7. Shortly after communities objected to UPC’s proposed transmission line, TasNetworks announced it would build the section from Hampshire to Staverton on UPC’s behalf. Who in government ordered TasNetworks to do so, and why?
This question was met with sheepish silence in meetings with TasNetworks.
8. The planning minister had recommended that the proposed North West transmission line will be processed through existing Major Infrastructure Development Approvals Act. Now, as part of ‘Marinus’, it will be fast-tracked. Will communities and the environment be the losers?
Bess Clark, general manager of the project at TasNetworks, said that “Having a more streamlined process is very helpful because it helps to de-risk the project investment decision.” The new Major Projects Bill is designed to give more control to the Minister and less oversight to us and our councils. The winners are the investors, the losers are ordinary Tasmanians, who need better planning not less oversight. ‘Marinus’ needs to go back to the drawing board for proper planning so that Tasmanians gain, not lose.
9. Is TasNetworks’ business plan to become the major constructor of transmission lines for new windfarms to connect to the Grid? If so, how is this not a clear conflict of interest when they are part of the planning process?
Over the last year, we’ve learned the corporate sector and the government serve each other’s interests, not ours. In the event that a national Independent Commission Against Corruption is ever formed, is TasNetworks confident it will pass muster?
10. Whats in it for us?
Where’s the ‘thousands of jobs’ the politicians promise, and in what industries? Where’s the co-ordinated state plan for all this? Isn’t the only plan to sell Tasmanian wind energy to the mainland? Why isn’t that energy staying here to support manufacturing? Where, in any of the hype, is there anything to benefit Tasmanians?
SOLVE – Supporting Our Loongana Valley Environment – a community group set up to reject the UPC-TasNetworks transmission line through our valley.