Wallumbilla north residents' unequal battle with Powerlink
STOP putting the needs of the gas companies ahead of the health and safety of local residents, that's the message Wallumbilla North residents are trying to get to Powerlink Queensland.
The residents are affected by a huge transmission network Powerlink is building for Santos GLNG to supply power to gas-processing facilities between Yuleba North and Blythdale.
They have health and safety concerns about high-voltage lines planned near homesteads, school bus stop zones and farm gates.
Despite the fact the network will be solely used by gas companies, Powerlink calls the project "community infrastructure" which allows them to fast-track development.
In October 2012, 18 residents from six properties formed themselves into a group called the Woodduck Landholder Group as affected properties adjoin the Woodduck State Forest.
The group wants Powerlink to run its lines at least 1km from houses, not to cross property entrances or school bus waiting zones with its lines and they must have minimal impact on farming.
Powerlink's preferred routes go within 0.5km of homesteads.
Group member Rebecca Beissel said Powerlink's preferred routes took no account of the health and safety of landholders and their families.
"We don't want transmission lines cutting across our front entrances or near where school buses stop," Ms Beissel said.
The group wanted a realignment of lines through the state forest and was open to suggestions about alignments that addressed its concerns.
The group received a letter from Premier Campbell Newman last month assuring them and landholders that Powerlink would investigate their concerns. But group member Jenny York said that all they were getting from Powerlink was "incompetence and mistruths".
"They are putting timeframes and budgets ahead of the safety of families," she said.
Powerlink chief executive Merryn York refused to answer questions from the Western Star but issued a statement saying the company was working with the group about its concerns and how they could be met.
"Powerlink has offered to workshop alignment options including their preferred option, despite its location outside the project study corridor," Ms York said.
"We have completed the field work necessary to consider the group's preferred alignment."
Meanwhile the customer Santos GLNG refused to get involved in the matter.
A company spokesperson said Santos GLNG was not involved in the construction or operation of the high-voltage transmission network.
"It is owned and operated by Powerlink," the spokesperson said.
"As such Powerlink is responsible for dealings with private landholders on matters relating to the new transmission line."
The questions we asked but Powerlink wouldn't answer:
Does Powerlink accept the charges of incompetence and providing misleading information to landholders?
Why is Powerlink determined to push ahead with an alignment unsuitable to landholders some 11 months after the negotiation process started?
Why is Powerlink putting the interests of the gas companies ahead of the health and safety of the families and children that live in the area?
Why is the company not acting on the assurance of Premier Campbell Newman when he told residents that Powerlink would make every effort to investigate their preferred route for the powerlines?
If, as all the literature on the subject suggests, these projects are solely at the behest of, and paid for by, the gas companies, why are we persisting with the fiction this is "community infrastructure"?
Is there a document that describes the plans for all the power infrastructure requirements in this part of the Surat Basin?