Farmers rumble through Melbourne’s CBD to protest VNI West and Western Renewables Link projects

Fired-up farmers have rumbled into Melbourne to take their fight against two contentious transmission projects to the front steps of Victorian parliament.

The “stop the towers” protest was planned for Tuesday in response to the proposed VNI West and Western Renewables Link projects.

Roughly 40 tractors, 20 utes and 10 trucks rolled up.

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Organiser Glenden Watts, whose farm between Charlton and St Arnaud in central Victoria could fall within the VNI West route, vowed the protest would be respectful and lawful but loud.

Farmers have a range of gripes but are particularly outraged with their treatment from the Victorian government, Australian Energy Market Operator and VicGrid.

Roughly 40 tractors, 20 utes and 10 trucks rolled up. Credit: 7NEWS

“It’s the lack of consultation, the lack of engagement, the lack of respect,” Watts told AAP.

“They purely just want to bulldoze it through and don’t really give a stuff.”

VNI West has been billed as a second transmission link between Victoria and NSW that will harness renewable energy zones and increase network reliability as coal-fired power stations are retired.

The Western Renewables Link would also carry renewable energy from Bulgana in Victoria’s west to Sydenham in Melbourne’s northwest through 190km of overhead transmission lines.

AEMO’s preferred route option is to link the projects at Bulgana.

In February, the Victorian government flagged farmers with transmission easements on their land would receive standard payments of $8000 a year for 25 years.

The ‘stop the towers’ protest took place on Tuesday in response to the proposed VNI West and Western Renewables Link projects. Credit: 7NEWS

“It’s a very meaningful thing to have people come onto your land and say they’re going to build a big transmission easement through your farm, that is a significant thing, no-one is diminishing that,” Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Tuesday ahead of the protest.

He said the environmental assessment process needed to run its course and their views would be heard through that.

But some remain concerned about construction disruptions, health and biosecurity risks, environmental impacts, the bushfire threat from high-voltage power lines and towers, land devaluation, farming limitations, and ceding access to their properties.

The Victorian Farmers Federation has launched a petition calling for an immediate halt to the planning and construction of both projects.

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