Compo concern for farmers

Kate MatthewsCountryman

Farmers angry about a proposed transmission line between Muja and Wellstead are demanding equitable compensation for use of their land along the 280km line.

The proposed line route will impact 226 titles and 123 owners including Borden farmers Michael and Judy Summers, who last week said they were devastated at the prospect of having seven 58m-tall towers on their picturesque farm.

The landowners want their property rights recognised and fear that compensation for the easement through their land will not reflect land values or take into consideration factors such as loss of amenity.

Under current legislation, compensation to affected landowners will be a one-off payment assessed on the market value determined by the Valuer-General’s office at or near completion of construction.

Mr Summers heard this could be as little as a few hundred dollars a tower but has not had any formal discussions.

“We feel this doesn’t come close to reflecting the ongoing effect these structures will have on our operations and lifestyle, ” Mr Summers said.

“Given the new powerline will assist a privately owned company deliver ongoing profits to shareholders, while at the same time present ongoing challenges to affected farmers, then surely compensation should be ongoing as well.”

Bowelling farmer Hugo Bombara said that under the Energy Operators Powers Act of 1979, farmers would not be able to claim losses for enjoyment or amenity value or change in aesthetic environment.

The sheep farmer’s main concern was the date of entry at which the land value could be determined.

He said under the Act, the value of his land could be set when Western Power first sent a notice of entry in September 2008.

Five towers will go through Ray Harrington’s Darkan farm, but he does not expect much compensation due to the legislation.

“My real issue is Grange is using Western Power so it doesn’t have to pay compensation to get its line through, ” Mr Harrington said.

“Western Power can put a powerline anywhere, anytime under the legislation, as long as it’s in the best interest of the community. I fail to see how the Grange line is in the best interest of the community when there is already a line that is going to be upgraded.”

Mr Harrington said Grange needed to stop hiding behind the coat-tails of Western Power and work with the community.

A Western Power spokeswoman said valuations would be determined and backdated from the first date of entry from a notice “for construction purposes”.

“All works completed so far have been undertaken under a notice of entry for preliminary work, such as surveys and investigations — not for construction purposes, ” she said.

The proposed line will require a 60m-wide easement and will be calculated using two methods — the value of the footprint under each 8m by 8m tower and a 4m access track under the line; and the 60m wide easement as a percentage of land value taking into account location such as down a fence line or through the middle of a paddock.

Western Power is investigating the power line route on behalf of Grange Resources for its $2.57 billion Southdown magnetite mine. A decision on whether the mine will proceed will be made in the first quarter of next year.

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