McCain says western Victoria powerline project might jeopardize potato production

A high capacity powerline proposed through one of Victoria’s top food bowls has upset McCain managers: the food giant warns that more than 60,000 tons of annual potato crop is in jeopardy.

Farmers and local communities between Melbourne and Stawell are up in arms as well over the $550 mln proposal for the Western Victoria Transmission Network to be built by AusNet Services. The Australian Energy Market Operator has contracted the company to supply the new transmission line to connect renewable energy suppliers more easily to the city and drive down energy prices.

However, the 190-km long line will run through dozens of farms in the state’s west, requiring towers about 380 towers to support it. The overhead lines also require large lots and exclusion zones that have ignited the fury of farmers around Ballarat who believe they will no longer be able to access their potato crops with machinery needed for watering and harvest.

Mt Prospect potato farmer Joee Aganetti-Fraser, told “We won’t be able to supply McCain with our full contracts. We won’t be able to farm or produce the tonnage needed.”

In the document lodged with the state government, McCain argues AusNet’s own rules would forever stop potato farming on 1000ha of land, equivalent to 60 per cent of the company’s production area in Ballarat.

“AusNet’s proposed overhead transmission line directly threatens the loss of the McCain’s potato production facility in Ballarat, over $250M in economic impact and more than 1100 jobs,” the submission said. “McCain is aligned with our growers that these constraints directly prohibit and/or significantly burden Ballarat potato production, directly threatening the potato industry.”

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