A draft environmental impact statement released this week by Powerlink has given the green light to the controversial $100 million Woolooga to Cooroy South transmission line project.
And that has residents along the 64-kilometre alignment – which takes in scenic sections around the Noosa hinterland through Ridgewood, Eerwah Vale and Eumundi – seeing red.
The proposal to build the South Cooroy substation and erect 275,000-volt powerlines – including an 8.5km new section with 60m wide easements – saw the creation of the Powerlines Action Group Eumundi.
They claim that this intrusion – designed to head off a claimed electricity supply shortage by the year 2016 – will impact badly on their lives and drop property values by up to 75%.
Black Mountain resident Jim Cooney, who lost a court battle with Powerlink to stop powerline workers coming onto his land, has labelled the process surrounding the draft EIS a “sham” and “a joke”.
The consultant’s report states in its executive summary: “Provided Powerlink implements the recommendations contained in this draft EIS and the associated draft EMP, there does not appear to be any social, environmental, economic or cultural heritage issues that would prevent this project from being recommended to the relevant minister.
“While the project may result in localised impacts on some of the aspects investigated, the overall need for the project has been demonstrated and viable alternatives considered and assessed,” the Parsons Brinckerhoff report concludes.
But Mr Cooney said he was so disgusted by the findings that he was wondering if it was worth making a submission.
“Responding to it would give this some validity, when it is really just a sick joke.”
Mr Cooney said Powerlink claimed to respond to people’s concerns but was clearly ignoring them.
The Member for Nicklin Peter Wellington said he had major reservations about the draft EIS and urged people not to “put their head in the sand” and ignore this proposal, but to make proper submissions.
“If they don’t then the government will just go ahead and accept these arguments,” Mr Wellington said.
“I don’t believe they (the consultants) have proven their case that there is a need for this powerline – there are people whose lives are going to be severely affected by this.”
Mr Wellington was unimpressed that the draft EIS had dismissed the alternative proposal for solar electricity to augment local electricity generation.
The draft EIS found that a suggestion for a solar thermal generator could not be supported because “the proposal makes it clear that the technical and commercial viability of the concept is yet to be established”.
PAGE spokesman Dr John Cronin said it was hard to give credence to a draft EIS prepared by a consultant hired by Powerlink.
“Are we surprised by these findings? No we’re not,” Dr Cronin said.
“He who pays the piper calls the tune.”
Powerlink chief operating officer Simon Bartlett said the draft EIS included a draft environmental management plan which outlined how potential impacts were to be mitigated and managed.
He said the draft EIS had been prepared by professionally-qualified scientists and engineers.
“The draft EIS studies did identify some species and potential habitat for species that are listed as ‘endangered’ or ‘vulnerable’, but a detailed assessment has concluded that there will be no significant impacts on these species/habitats, provided the mitigation measures outlined in the EIS are adopted.
“While this means that it is not mandatory for the project to be referred to the Commonwealth Department of Environment, Powerlink has voluntarily referred it to the department for review.”
Mr Bartlett said Powerlink was offering the community a six-week period for submissions. Written submissions must be received by 5pm on Friday, May 15. An information drop-in day will be held at Federal on April 28. The EIS document is available at www.powerlink.com.au