Land-grab protest threat

TASMANIAN farmers are threating to take to the streets if their concerns about the state’s compulsory acquisition laws are not heard. The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association says despite raising concerns about the current compulsory acquisition legislation, a lack of action by the State Government to address the issue has them frustrated.

TFGA chief executive officer Hugh Christie said with a number of large infrastructure projects now in the pipeline requiring the use of valuable farmland, it is time for an over-haul of the acquisition legislation to make sure it is fit for purpose. Of particular concern are plans to widen transmission line easements or create new ones through large tracts of farmland in key production areas as part of the Battery of the Nation renewable energy project.

TFGA president Ian Sauer described the current legislation as old and clunky. “Years ago, it was fit for purpose, but it’s just not fit for purpose now, full stop,” he said. “The other thing it does is it allows the proponents to intimidate and bully the landowners because they don’t even have to do anything. Just knowing that outdated compulsory acquisition legislation is there is a form of bullying, it’s just not fair, so we’re saying let’s get it fixed up.”

Mr Sauer said the TFGA understood that compulsory acquisition was necessary at times. “We think that the process needs to be reviewed so that if there is a proponent and it doesn’t matter what they’re doing whether it’s to do with dams, pipes, powerlines or roads, they need to start talking with the landowner before they start plotting where they infrastructure will go,” he said. When it comes to the Battery of the Nation project and the controversial Marinus Link, Mr Christie said in many cases farmers have planned their farm development around the existing easements and changes to those could have major impacts on those properties.

“It’s not just a matter of compensating at twice the value of the land because these easements represent years of planning,” he said.

Energy and Renewables Minister Guy Barnett, said Marinus Link was an urgently needed and critical energy project that would put downward pressure on energy prices for customers, including Tasmanians. He said the North West Transmission Developments were critical to support and progress the proposed Marinus Link interconnector and deliver on the Government’s vision to achieve our Renewable Energy Target of 200 per cent of 2020 electricity generation by 2040.

However Mr Christie said another aspect which needs to be looked at is the issue of compensation and annual payments for landowners who have major infrastructure on their properties.

Primary Industries Minister Jo Palmer said the Government would always ensure the views of the agriculture community are being heard and that landowners are being treated fairly. “I will continue to have ongoing discussions with the TFGA and farmers,” Ms Palmer said.

TasNetworks was working with individual landowners to mitigate impacts. “Be assured I will be closely monitoring these negotiations. Compensation frameworks need to be fair, equitable and contemporary.”

The TFGA says while farmers are broadly supportive of the energy project and increased renewable energy, they want to see a fair and transparent process that does not make winners and losers. “What we aren’t supportive of, is Tasmanian farmers being treated like an afterthought in infrastructure planning,” Mr Christie said.

TasNetworks CEO Sean Mc Goldrick said the company understood the concerns raised by landowners, especially farmers and the organisation has been consulting regularly with individual landowners on their properties, and groups of landowners represented by the TFGA for nearly two years.

As a result of extensive consultation, he said TasNetworks has been able to assess how farming infrastructure and operations can work alongside these upgrades including refining transmission line design to provide for better placement.