Peter Watson

Letter to PLUG

Peter Watson JP, MLA
Member for Albany

Ms Michelle Doherty
43 Willow Place

Dear Michelle


On September 27 this year in the Legislative Assembly I raised a grievance with the Hon Fran Logan, Minister for Energy, Resources; Industry and Enterprises.

As you have contacted either my office or the offices of my colleagues with concerns over this issue, I believe you may be interested in my grievance and the Minister's response.

The main thrust of my grievance to the Minister was the inadequacy of the community consultation process undertaken by both Western Power and its consultants.

I also raised concerns about the impact of large pylons on smaller property values, health implications of electromagnetic fields, the impact on tree plantations and the need to address alternatives when it comes to route selection and pole/pylon sizes.

As a result of my raising the issue in Parliament, the Minister has agreed to set up a meeting with representatives from community groups that have been formed to press their case with Western Power and the State Government. These groups are the Power Line Upgrade Group, Napier Action Group and the Stirling Area Vision Environment.

Minister Logan has arranged a meeting for the 15th October with representatives from the abovementioned groups, the Managing Director of Western Power Doug Aberle, the Hon Matt Benson MLC, Member for the South West Region and myself.

I have enclosed a copy of the grievance with this letter and I am also sending copies to those groups.

If you are aware of anyone else who would like a copy of this document, please let me know and I will arrange for one to be sent to them.

I look forward to working with you in the future on this important issue to help achieve the best outcome for you and the broader community.

Yours sincerely

Pete Watson MLA

Grievance to Energy Minister




Mr Peter Watson MLA

(Member for Albany)

Legislative Assembly

Thursday 27 September 2007

Reprinted from Hansard

Legislative Assembly

Thursday 27 September 2007

Mr Peter Watson MLA

(Member for Albany)

MR P.B. WATSON (Albany - Parliamentary Secretary) []: My grievance is also directed to the Minister for Energy. Western Power is currently undertaking a process of powerline route selection to service the proposed Grange Resources Ltd magnetite mine at Wellstead near Albany. The route selection and the mix of new lines and line upgrades that are needed to service the mine are at least partially dependent on decisions yet to be made by Grange. Principally, this boils down to whether it will opt for a staged start-up of the mine, requiring less power at the outset, or whether it will opt for a start-up that requires full power on commencement of operations. If Grange Resources opts for the staged start-up, Western Power can bring forward by a few years its plans to upgrade the Kojonup-Albany transmission line to cater for increasing demand. A new line from Albany to Wellstead would then need to be built to service the Grange mine.

Nobody would dispute that the upgrade of the Kojonup-Albany transmission line is needed to meet future demands on the electricity system due to increased population and economic growth in the great southern area. I am delighted that Western Power is working to provide a more secure and reliable power source for my constituents and other great southern residents. Hon Matt Benson-Lidholm, MLC, and I have received representations and correspondence from numerous people, both constituents of mine and constituents from neighbouring electorates. These people are universally unhappy about various aspects of the planning and consultation process undertaken by Western Power -

Mr G. Snook: Not again!

Mr P.B. WATSON: That is the first time the member for Moore has agreed with me in Parliament.

These people are universally unhappy about various aspects of the planning and consultation process undertaken by Western Power and its consultants for both the Kojonup-Albany transmission line and the Albany-Wellstead line. The complaints are numerous and sometimes very individual. I will describe the five main complaints as expressed to me. Although Western Power has had a consultation process running, people from communities affected by the proposed routes have told me that they were either not invited or not informed of the consultation forums. I know there was an issue when Western Power was trying to get people's addresses from the council but the council would not give them so it had to go back to the titles office, and a lot of people never got the message that meetings were going to be held. If they did know about them and attended, they were treated in a patronising manner as if they were schoolchildren. People from small communities such as Napier and Narrikup have complained that the routes Western Power is considering go through areas of relatively small and densely populated land holdings - often through lifestyle properties and accommodation properties such as bed and breakfast or farm stay businesses or small and intensive horticultural properties. Western Power has also told me that the transmission lines will be on 50-metre high steel lattice pylons, which will have a major impact on small properties. Such massive structures would have far less impact on larger farms as far as potential loss of income or value is concerned.

Although landowners will receive a very minor sum of money to compensate them for the footprint of the pylons - I am told it is probably less than $100 a pylon - the impact of a huge power pylon on the value of a small lifestyle or bed and breakfast block would be massive and owners would not get one cent in compensation for the loss of value. Many have raised the question of why such massive structures are necessary when they have been told that smaller single concrete and steel poles can do the job just as well as the steel lattice pylons.

A number of people along the powerline routes are also worried about electromagnetic fields generated by these hightension lines and the possible adverse health effects for themselves, their children and their livestock. They want to be reassured that no line will be close enough to their houses to be of concern.

There is also a concern from some of the larger landholders in the potentially affected areas that existing tree plantations under the line route will have to be removed, and for anyone considering tree plantations in the future significant areas of their land would be off-limits to tree planting, thus decreasing the potential income from the industry.

I call on the minister to make a commitment to the people of the great southern to address the issues of comprehensive and genuine consultation, route selection, pole/pylon size, compensation - including for property devaluation - minimum distances from dwellings and the potential effect on the plantation timber industry. I would also like the minister to organise a meeting with Mr Doug Aberle, Hon Matt Benson-Lidholm, some of the key stakeholders and me so that the stakeholders can put their case directly to the top.

The stakeholders are not "nimbys" - they are members of small but cohesive communities who feel they have not been consulted properly. While they recognise the need for improved power infrastructure they are not convinced that their concerns are being adequately addressed. So far, neither am 1.

MR F.M. LOGAN (Cockburn - Minister for Energy) []: Yes, it is powerline day! I have some further advice from Western Power regarding this particular powerline route. A new transmission line is necessary to meet forecast growth in the great southern region and a general increase in the use of electricity. The line that has been referred to by the member for Albany may also be used to supply the proposed Grange Resources magnetite mine at Wellstead. However, even if the mine does not proceed a new transmission line between Kojonup and Albany is necessary to meet the power needs of Albany, Denmark, Walpole and the surrounding areas. Members have heard me speak on this ad nauseam in the house.

Western Power began the process of selecting a transmission line corridor in March 2007. Following considerable community involvement three broad corridor options were identified and a panel of people was drawn from local government authorities, government agencies and the local community. Each of the corridor options is two kilometres wide. The next stage would normally be to select one of the corridor options and then defme a line route within that corridor. However, Western Power has also received feedback that some communities feel they did not have the opportunity to be involved in developing these options, as was outlined by the member for Albany. Given the importance of this project to the entire region, Western Power has decided to extend its consultation process to allow for more community input and to review the current corridor options.

With respect to extending the committee consultation process, Western Power will host information sessions in Napier, Redmond, Mt Barker and Kojonup at the end of October. Anyone can attend, without the need to register, and will be able to meet the project team, gain a thorough understanding of the project and the proposed options, ask questions and be provided with information about constraints and opportunities in the area. Two stakeholder advisory groups will be established: one for the Kojonup to Albany line project and the other for the Albany to Wellstead line project. The groups are expected to comprise up to 40 members who will have strong local knowledge and experience and a perspective that is broader than one of single or self-interest. Western Power has arranged for the information sessions and workshops to be facilitated by a new consulting firm, Estill and Associates. The role of the groups will be to review the current corridor options, providing additional stakeholder input where relevant - based on local knowledge. It is an opportunity to strengthen the process and build on the information already collected. The deliberations of the groups will be made available to the public.

In line with what the member for Albany has asked, a meeting will be arranged during the week of 15 October between me; Doug Aberle, the managing director of Western Power; Hon Matt Benson-Lidholm, MLC, member for the South West Region; the member for Albany; and stakeholders from various community groups. Western Power will also send about 8,500 information packs to landholders in the great southern, whether their land will be potentially affected or not. The packs will include details about why the line is needed, how a line route will be selected, answers to frequently asked questions, and an outline of the next steps in the process, including an open invitation to attend the information sessions.

With respect to the corridor areas highlighted through Narrikup and Napier, because the transmission lines will have to enter and exit the Mirambeena zone substation, the selected corridors, by necessity, pass through the Narrikup and Napier areas. For the Kojonup to Albany transmission line an alternative would be to follow the route of one of the existing 132 kilovolt transmission lines that run from Kojonup to the Albany substation. I am advised that Western Power recently reconsidered this option but remains of the view that it is not viable for the following reasons. Firstly, there would be insufficient space to maintain safe electrical clearances between the two transmission lines without going outside the line easement area. This would mean establishing additional easements on properties that already have a transmission line and are much smaller landholdings - particularly in Mt Barker, Carbarup and Kendenup - than will be encountered in the Narrikup area. Secondly, the security of the network would be compromised if two transmission lines followed the same path. For example, a storm could knock out both of them leaving the great southern region totally without power for an extended time. Thirdly, it would not be possible to apply the same selection criteria applied in the other corridor options; that is, keeping the line at least 500 metres from houses wherever possible.

The member raised the issue of steel lattice towers. The use of steel lattice towers on the line does offer some advantages over poles in that the towers can be spaced further apart, meaning there are fewer of them on landowners' properties. Also, towers can be constructed taller so that the conductor wires of the line can span over some vegetation, thus avoiding the need to clear it.

With respect to compensation and the effects on farming activities and tree plantations - the member for Moore raised this as well - when determining a transmission line route Western Power works closely with landowners, through personal contact, to gather information about current and intended use of their land. Minor adjustments may be made to accommodate individual requirements and minimise impact. I think we have seen that already in the proposed line route between Kojonup and Albany. Western Power is required by legislation - the Energy Operators (Powers) Act 1979 - to acquire an interest or easement in land for powerlines that operate at 200 kilovolts or above. The line between Kojonup and Albany may operate at 220 kilovolts or 132 kilovolts, depending on whether it is used to supply the Grange Resources magnetite mine at Wellstead. The line from Albany to Wellstead would operate at 220 kilovolts. There is no legal requirement for Western Power to require an easement on land traversed by a 132-kilovolt transmission line. However, Western Power has made a commitment to secure easements on transmission lines whenever they can be negotiated. The easement serves two purposes: it outlines the area in question and details the restrictions placed on the land as well as the rights and obligations of both the landowner and Western Power. It is the vehicle in the matter of compensation.

The licensed valuer assesses the value of land for compensation under the terms of the Land Administration Act 1997 and the Energy Operators (Powers) Act 1979. The valuation considers a number of issues, including the loss of future potential for tree plantations, which the member highlighted; the loss of rent and subdivision potential; and the effect of any restrictions the easement places on the use of the land, such as the inability to build on it and install darns or bores. All those things are taken into consideration whenever Western Power is required to provide compensation.

Response to Paul from Minister for Energy


Our ref: 011723

Mr Peter Watson MLA
Member for Albany
PO Box 5844

Dear Peter

Thank you for your letters dated 30 August 2007 and the attached correspondence from the Power Line Upgrade Group and the solicitors of the Ravenhill Dairy regarding Western Power's proposal to build a new transmission line from Kojonup to Albany and Albany to Wellstead.

The Power Line Upgrade Group has written to me directly about their concerns and both this group and the solicitors of the Ravenhill Dairy, have written to Western Power. In responses from both Western Power and myself, the need for more extensive community consultation has been acknowledged.

In response to this feedback, I understand that Western Power has decided to hold a further series of public information sessions in the region. These will provide the community and landowners further opportunities. to discuss key issues of concern and revisit the current corridor options. Open invitations are being issued for the sessions, which will be held at Kojonup, Mount Barker, Redmond and Napier in the coming weeks.

I understand Western Power is also preparing comprehensive information packs, which will be sent to some 8,500 residents in the Great Southern area during the first week of October. These packs will include details about why the line is needed, how a line route will be selected, answers to frequently asked questions and an outline of the next steps in the process.

The Power Line Upgrade Group's concerns relate largely to the proposed section of line between Kojonup and Albany. I understand this line is necessary to meet forecast growth in the region and a general increase in the use of electricity. The line may also be used to supply the proposed Grange Resources magnetite mine at Wellstead. However, even if the mine does not proceed, a new transmission line is necessary to meet the power needs of Albany, Denmark, Walpole and the surrounding areas.

I also understand that Western Power has reconsidered the option of building this new line along the route of one of the existing 132 kV transmission lines between Kojonup and Albany. However, they inform me that this option is not feasible. I understand there are several reasons for this, including:

  • the inability to maintain safe electrical clearance without going outside the line easement area;
  • compromised network security (it is more likely that both lines would be affected by a storm, for example, if they are together) causing great risk to the Great Southern region of total and extended loss of power; and
  • the inability to apply the same selection criteria applied in the other corridor options - that is, keeping the line at least 500m from houses wherever possible.

Nonetheless, Western Power is aware of community concerns about the current corridor options and is keen to work more broadly with landowners to resolve these.

The Ravenhill Dairy's concerns relate to the proposed section of line between Albany and Wellstead. I understand the nature of this line depends on the Grange Resources project.

For example, if the Grange project is supplied via a line directly from Muja, a feed from Wellstead to Albany would be necessary to deliver additional capacity to the Albany region. Another possibility is that the line could initially deliver power from Kojonup/Albany to Wellstead, but that the flow would later be reversed, if the Muja to Wellstead line were constructed at a later date.

If the Grange project does not proceed, this section of the line may not be necessary. However, Western Power is required to secure a line route over the next few months in order to be able to meet the timeframe of whichever option eventuates.

The Dairy's concerns about visual impact, electromagnetic field emissions (EMF), weeds and the impact on farming and business activities are common to many landowners, and will be addressed in detail by Western Power. The corridor options identified are each about two kilometres wide, providing flexibility to position the actual line route well away from buildings and to avoid areas of intense agricultural activity and environmental sensitivity. All of Western Power's infrastructure is designed and built to operate within the limits for EMF exposure recommended by national and international health organisations, and Western Power is experienced in practices to prevent the spread of weeds and dieback.

It is common for transmission lines to be built on private property and, indeed, it would not be possible to have an effective and efficient electricity network in WA without doing so. Western Power is in the difficult position of having to find a line route that meets social, environmental, technical and economic requirements as well as the different expectations and priorities of community members. This is not an easy task, but I am reassured by the efforts Western Power is making to gather and balance the various views of the community to achieve the most acceptable outcome.

I hope your constituents will take the opportunity to attend the forthcoming information sessions and otherwise work with. Western Power to resolve their specific concerns.

Thank you again for your letters.

Yours sincerely


10 OCT 2007