A move to pay landowners $200,000 per sq km for energy infrastructure imposed on their properties has been labelled a slap in the face by a Victorian farmer.
Residents living in the path of several transmission projects in regional Victoria have previously protested against high-voltage power lines and towers more than 80m high and are calling for infrastructure to be placed underground instead.
The projects are part of a wider move to shift the state to renewable energy as remaining coal-fired power stations close over the next 12 years.
The first to receive payments will be those affected by VNI West, which is likely to connect Ballarat in central Victoria with Kerang in the north and across to NSW, and the Western Renewables Link corridor running from the Melbourne suburb of Sydenham to near Stawell in western Victoria.
The standard payments will be $8,000 a year for 25 years for those with transmission easements on their land.
Moorabool Central Highlands Power Alliance chair, Emily Muir, called the payments a “sweetener” but claimed they did not go far enough to compensate farmers.
“It feels like the government’s just slapped us in the face,” Muir said.
About one kilometre of the farm she lives on with her husband is likely to be affected by the Western Renewables Link.
Muir said she wasn’t against renewable energy projects but believed power lines and towers on her property would impact farming in various ways, including restricting weed spraying from a helicopter, stopping the movement of certain machinery or stock, and interrupting views.
“I feel like it’s the government trying to get us over the line to agree to a project that we’ve been protesting against for two-and-a-half years,” she said.
People living in Gippsland affected by the Victoria-Tasmania Marinus Link project and those near future offshore wind projects can also receive payments.
In 2022, protests against VNI West stepped up, with hundreds of farmers driving tractors through Ballarat. Another rally was also held outside Parliament House in Melbourne.
The energy projects are part of a move to guarantee energy stability across the east coast, with power generated in Victoria and NSW able to be transferred between states.
“These new payments acknowledge the hugely important role landholders play in hosting critical energy infrastructure – a key part of Victoria’s renewables revolution,” Victoria’s energy and resources minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, said.
“We want to get the process for planning and approving new infrastructure right, so we can make sure the renewables revolution is a shared, equitable legacy for all Victorians.”
The Australian Energy Market Operator earlier this week warned the reliability of the grid would be in doubt over the next decade without urgent investments to replace coal plants.