The Kosciuszko National Park Plan of Management is being amended to allow overhead transmission lines

Ted Woodley, Member of NPANSW Executive

The Main Works for the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro station has been approved and work commenced a year ago.  But the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the transmission connection was deliberately held back, presumably so it couldn’t be refused (as Snowy 2.0 would otherwise be stranded).

The EIS for the Snowy 2.0 Transmission Connection was released in February this year, proposing four high-voltage overhead transmission lines through Kosciuszko National Park (KNP).

The cheapest and most environmentally destructive option has been proposed, rather than a far less damaging underground connection.  This is despite an explicit requirement in the Plan of Management (PoM) for “all additional telecommunication and transmission lines to be located underground”.

The most reprehensible aspect of this environmental vandalism is that the National Parks and Wildlife Service exhibited a Draft Amendment to the KNP PoM, even before the EIS was released, proposing to exempt Snowy 2.0 from this requirement through the addition of a few words (in bold) – “all additional telecommunication and transmission lines to be located underground, except those constructed as part of the Snowy 2.0 project”.

The only ‘reason’ given for the amendment is to “prevent the NPW Act from prohibiting Snowy 2.0 operations from being undertaken that are not in accordance with the PoM”.  That is, the PoM must be amended so that it is consistent with Snowy Hydro’s proposal for overhead lines.  

Here we have the preposterous situation where Snowy Hydro Ltd is dictating to the NSW Government what infrastructure is permissible in a National Park.

The last major transmission line to be constructed in a NSW National Park was in 1976, and in Kosciuszko National Park was in the 1960’s.  Overhead transmission lines are banned in National Parks and areas of natural significance throughout the world.  Only underground cables are permitted, and then only when absolutely essential.  

The proposed Snowy 2.0 lines would be far larger and more intrusive than existing single-circuit transmission lines in the Park – comprising four 330 kV overhead lines, with two sets of massive steel lattice towers up to 75 metres tall, traversing eight kilometres of the Park over a cleared swathe up to 200 metres wide.  One hundred and forty hectares of the Park and Bago State Forest would be permanently cleared.  The towers and lines would be visible over an astonishing 300 square kilometres.

By selecting an inappropriate transmission option that involves large scale clearance of native vegetation, disruption of habitat connectivity and wide scale introduction of threatening processes, the proposal comprehensively fails to protect the values of the Park.  

An Open Letter to Ministers Stokes and Kean, 18 Jan 2021 from two dozen environmental organisations and 50 experts called for a comprehensive analysis of transmission alternatives and the adoption of an underground solution.  

NSW can do better than install old-technology, environmentally destructive, overhead lines in one of our planet’s iconic natural places.

Any new transmission connection through Kosciuszko or any other National Park must be located underground, as stipulated in the Plan of Management.  That has been the case for 50 years.  There is no reason to amend that policy in 2021, just for Snowy 2.0. 

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