Fire risks, threats to waterways and tourism implications dominated the debate at a community meeting about a proposed lithium battery project in Dederang.
Concerned Kiewa Valley residents filled the Dederang Reserve clubhouse and spilled out onto the verandah on Thursday, November 16.
However, there were more questions than answers, with the company responsible for the development, Mint Renewables, not attending the event.
A representative from Helen Haines' office and Alpine Shire mayor John Forsyth were also in attendance.
But she expressed concerns about the current approach, saying, "nothing is free".
"In 2035, there will be no productive land left for people to farm on because it will be filled with solar panels, wind farms and BESS systems that people don't want to live next to."
Accusing Mint Renewables of employing a divide-and-conquer strategy, Mrs McEvoy highlighted the need for open communication.
"Our neighbours down the road made an appointment for 6pm (with Mint Renewables), and they were happy to come to that," she said.
"But all of a sudden, when we want them to meet us as a group, they won't show.
"If they're door knocking and sending us letters individually, they should be prepared to come up here and speak to us all."
The main questions raised at the meeting were:
- What does it mean for the Kiewa Valley community?
- What are the fire risks?
- What are the dangers to nearby waterways?
- Will the power be used locally, or will it only benefit other parts of the state?
- What impact will it have on tourism?
- Who will be responsible for the cleanup if the project goes sour?
Michael Fisher-Smith, a Dederang resident living "directly downstream from the proposed site", worries about what it would mean for his young family.
"If there's a fire issue, I don't know how they plan to stop the millions of litres of toxic water flowing directly into the dam where my son swims during summer," he said.
"I just can't understand how someone can consider this whole plan ecologically intelligent or even possible.
"It blows my mind, the possible contamination of the whole Kiewa catchment that will form out of this should an event happen."
Mr Fisher-Smith also expressed concerns about the impact on tourism.
"I think it's just a stepping stone to taking such a beautiful, important agricultural area and industrialising it," he said.
"Turning it into basically a standalone city of batteries and glass panels that no one will visit, no one will come to.
"It'll dry up this section of the North East, and it will become a wasteland."
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After the meeting, Sharon McEvoy and Paul Ingram were chosen to lead further action.
Mr Ingram questioned the cleanup responsibility if Mint Renewables were to be sold or go bankrupt.
"Will this be lobbed on the landholder if there is an incident and they say sorry, we are not responsible?" he asked.
Mr Ingram revealed that Mint Renewables is an off-shoot of New Zealand company Infratel Networks LTD, which is managed by a "large, multi-national finance corporation" called Morrison & Co.
Infratel set up another company called Tilt Renewables in 2016 and sold their 65.5 per cent stake in 2021 for NZ $2 billion.
"So they build these things, get them profitable, and sell them off," Mr Ingram said.
"What happens to the obligations Mint might have when they are no longer there?
"What it means is there is no recourse for any of this."
The fate of the project rests with the Victorian Minister for Planning.
However, when The Border Mail contacted Mint Renewables, they said, "The local council (Alpine Shire) are a key stakeholder of the potential project".
Alpine Shire mayor John Forsyth said the Shire will not be taking a stance on the project right now.
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