”Cutting a 60 metre swathe, which is permanently kept clear of native vegetation, is like building a wall across the Serengeti plains,” the Greens MP John Kaye said.
”As long as this power line exists, it is cutting genetic groups off from each other, and also reducing the chances of species migrating to avoid the effects of climate change.”
A consultancy, URS Australia, was hired by the electricity agency Transgrid to talk to people living near the power line route. It found ”most were generally opposed to the project”.
Many residents also say new electricity infrastructure is not needed. Transgrid justified construction of the $227 million line on the basis that the population of the Far North Coast would grow significantly in the next two decades, and that each person would need significantly more energy.
”A lot of people are really mystified about why we need to spend so much money on this when there are other cleaner sources of energy that we could be using in the area,” Julia Harpham, a resident whose property lies in the path of the new line, said.
Ms Harpham’s property harbours vulnerable Ovenden’s ironbark trees, which the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change recommends should not be disturbed.
Transgrid said an environmental assessment was being done and would take into account all vulnerable species.
”The environmental assessment will describe the possible impacts of the transmission line, and any mitigation measures required to reduce those impacts,” a Transgrid spokeswoman said in a statement. The line would mainly follow the route of an existing, smaller power line and the amount of extra clearing would be small, the spokeswoman said.
The Great Eastern Ranges Initiative encourages rural landholders to grow trees on areas of their properties so that a string of national parks and state forests along the Great Diving Range will be linked together. But the plan has no power to stop developments that interrupt the corridor.