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A letter to Mr Jeremy Maycock (Chairman of Transgrid)

Dear Mr Jeremy Maycock (Chairman Transgrid),
I am writing to you as chairman of the Bannaby Residents Action Group in relation to Transgrid’s Humelink project in the Bannaby area. We are elevating our complaints to you and the Board of Transgrid due to the serious breaches, miscreant and duplicitous conduct of your representatives in their contact with our land holders. I think you will agree that when we itemise our complaints below, this will put Transgrid in breach of its ESG compliance.
We are not opposed to Humelink as a project but to the route and process that has been applied to the last 16kms at the northern end at Bannaby, NSW.
By way of background, our properties are located to the Northwest of Bannaby substation which is the northern connection point of the Humelink project as it is proposed. All of us are north of the Bannaby and Hanworth roads. As you would be aware, Transgrid had originally considered the option to run the Humelink 500KV line parallel to the existing 330KV line to the south of Bannaby/Hanworth Road ( Bannaby 1 route ). That path is already cleared and has machinery access roads in place. Sometime in 2020/2021 a decision was made within Transgrid to change the route for the last 16kms to go north across Bannaby road away from the existing lines and circle back across the Hanworth Road into the Bannaby substation. ( Bannaby 3 route ). The attached map from Transgrid can be used to identify this.

Transgrid has had serious complaints registered with the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner Andrew Dyer for its lack of community consultation. To this end a meeting was convened on 5th December, 2021 involving Transgrid, AEIC and BRAG members held at Hillasmount at Bannaby.

At the meeting, 1. Andrew Dyer (and BRAG) asked Transgrid to provide a cost benefit analysis of the comparison of the two possible routes, yellow and green lines in the map on the fact sheet. 2. Transgrid maintained to Andrew Dyer and BRAG that they had not made up their minds as to relative merits of the two routes and were open to discussions. Members of the BRAG group had already become aware that communications had been sent to land holders along the southern route ( Bannaby 1 ) informing them that Transgrid no longer intended to run the new 500KV transmission lines along that route. This communication occurred in November 2021 and we can only assume that Transgrid deals in alternative facts and truths from a parallel universe. 3. Andrew Dyer and BRAG asked for Transgrid to provide the Ecological and Cultural heritage surveys which Transgrid claim they have undertaken for the Northern Route ( Bannaby 3 Yellow line). In fact, Transgrid offered these to be provided to individual property owners. Subsequent to this meeting, (as to points 1 & 3 above), I had discussions with Transgrid in early February 2022. Transgrid maintained that they were unwilling to provide BRAG with the cost benefit analysis or ecological or environmental impact studies requested. In early May 2022 at Transgrid’s request, I also met via zoom, with Transgrid CEO Brett Redman and members of his executive and project team. Again, I asked for the ecological, environmental impact survey and cost benefit analysis report that Transgrid (agreed at Andrew Dyer’s request in December 2021 ) to be provided. Transgrid, in the presence of your CEO, summarily rejected our requests. Following this meeting we contacted AEIC Andrew Dyer again and believe he has contacted Transgrid and they are supposed to be answering our questions detailed in the attached email, just one example of them. As to date we have still no response. As to point 2, in our consultation with Transgrid, there has been no open discussion about any alternative route other than their proposed route, Bannaby 3 to the north. Transgrid has recently begun notifying landholders, without prior consultation, that it was proceeding with the northern route Bannaby 3. I was informed of this by a phone call on Monday 28th March 2022. However, when BRAG members requested Transgrids “most recent maps” of the impacted land following these phone calls, the maps we were provided with are all dated October 2021. It appears to us, that Transgrid made up its mind prior to October 2021, two months before the 5/12/21 meeting with Andrew Dyer and 5 months before notifying landholders.
Further in relation to point 3, BRAG have serious concerns as to the quality and veracity of Transgrids Ecological and Environmental studies. Firstly it appears only to have been done on the proposed Bannaby 3 northern route and not the alternate route we have proposed Bannaby 1. We know this because members of BRAG own significant portions of the land on the Bannaby 1 route, and other portions are owned by our friends and neighbours. When asked how they conduct such an important ecological and environmental study, a Transgrid representative said” in the majority, we conduct it by desktop”! Secondly, we are particularly aggrieved that Transgrid was “unaware” that the area they propose to clear has streams running through it that their heavy machinery will need to cross, these streams have platypus breeding in them. Quolls live in the area as do the protected Gang Gang Cockatoos and there have been numerous sightings of endangered Koala and endangered Brushtailed Rock Wallaby. There are at least 5 families of Wedge tailed eagles inhabiting the area along the route of the proposed Towers exposing them to the likelihood of bird strike. This area has old growth Forest, critically endangered White Box/ Yellow Box/ Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland listed as critically endangered ecological community under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. There is an abundance of rare plant life in the area that Transgrid intends to “sterilise” during construction of their towers. All of this information is on our website and has been communicated to Transgrid. In your latest factsheet (link below) https://www.transgrid.com.au/projects-innovation/humelink#Map
Transgrid states that the Bannaby 3, northern route has a “lower environmental impact with a smaller area of plant community types impacted” and also “lower environmental impact is also illustrated by its materially lower biodiversity offset cost”. We believe that these claims are incorrect and will not stand up to scrutiny. In particular, to make this claim, Transgrid would have needed to also do comparative, in depth ecological and environmental impact studies of both proposed routes which it has not done. To this end, BRAG has commissioned its own highly qualified independent Ecological and Environmental studies team to conduct a proper assessment of our properties to substantiate our claims and if necessary, to be provided as evidence to the courts.
Transgrid have threatened multiple members of our group with compulsory acquisition, including threatening to demolish houses, sheds, and infrastructure that falls within or close to the ultimate 70m easement and clearing and sterilising that land. At one of our members first meeting with Transgrid representatives, they were told that tenders had been called to demolish a cottage, yards and other buildings without any prior consultation or warning. They then went on to say “‘Your house will not be worth living in once we have finished”. Obviously, our legal advisers asked them to document this interaction for future reference. The comments and behaviour of Transgrid representatives over the last 12 months are easily characterized as bullying, duplicitous and evasive and are clearly in breach of the way in which one would expect an organization the size of Transgrid to behave and operate. Transgrids behaviour towards various members of the Brag group has caused mental distress, anxiety and economic uncertainty. This is unacceptable. Due to the deterioration in the relationship between BRAG and Transgrid and Transgrids unwillingness to engage in meaningful consultation, all members of BRAG have informed Transgrid that they would be locking their gates and future access to their properties would be denied to Transgrid. If Transgrid attempts to use the governments compulsory acquisition power to resume our land, we will commence litigation. In the event that HumeLink proceeds on the route proposed by Transgrid, as a group we will refuse to negotiate any leases of the surrounding land which would permit Transgrids contractors to access our properties, store machinery on our property or use any of our amenities. For your information, we have contacted Angus Taylor, Wendy Tuckerman, Chris Bowen, Matt Kean,and Pam Kensit. We have informed them of the issues we face and the position we have taken with Transgrid. Other residents along the Humelink project have had similar experiences with Transgrid and have successfully challenged Transgrids proposed route. By way of the BRAG group being helpful, a number of our members who own land on the southern route Bannaby 1 including the owner of Bannaby Station, and 3 others who already have 330KV easements, are prepared to invite Transgrid to negotiations. This would be consistent with your published fact sheet which states that Transgrid applies the following guiding principles to the route selection process: Keep the transmission line as straight as possible Select the shortest possible route between two substations where possible Parallel existing transmission easements or use public land where possible Constraints mapping (social, environmental and land use considerations) Mr Maycock , I hope you understand now how seriously we take this matter and fully appreciate that you will need to discuss this with your board and senior management. However, given the welfare, considerable strain and emotional distress Transgrid has forced on our members, I look forward to your earliest response.
Yours sincerely Sent as Chairman and on behalf of all members of the Bannaby Residents Action Group for Humelink.
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