Australia — East Gippsland residents have raised concerns about the clearing of vegetation at a meeting of the Powerline Bushfire Safety Taskforce in Bairnsdale.
The Taskforce was set up to look at ways to reduce the risk of bushfires being sparked by electricity infrastructure.
Public meetings have been held across the state to collect feedback on ideas including insulating and burying powerlines, giving residents in remote areas a stand-alone power supply and introducing new equipment to detect electrical faults.
Mike Ebdon from Energy Safe Victoria says the estimated cost of burying powerlines in country Victoria is about $41 billion.
He says many Victorians are nervous about paying more for electricity.
“Fundamentally, most of the money that is spent on this will come back to consumers one way or another, mainly through their power bills. And so the total amount that is going to spent on this is really something that is well on people’s mind, particularly now that there’s also carbon pricing. The second issue is how those costs should be fairly spread.”
Denise Bird from Sarsfield wants more regular pruning of vegetation near powerlines.
“When you look at all the costs involved which is going to affect our electricity, I feel that they should have a more general look at the vegetation, what is there, and what is causing it [bushfires] before we start laying out new powerlines or other infrastructure.”
Gilbert Rothe from Mount Taylor says he’s not confident the public will see major benefits if expensive options are pursued.
“People will pay if they see benefit for their money. It will be quite difficult for the simple reason of getting value for money and seeing the effects of it. And in our outlying areas it may be 15 or 20 years before we saw any value for money anyway.”
Mr Ebdon says the feedback from community meetings across Victoria will help shape the Taskforce’s recommendations to the State Government.
“What we are doing is collating all the ideas that are coming back from these meetings; and there is seven of them. Those will go back to the taskforce. And that will help inform what sort of package of options we put together to say to the Government, ‘Well you could do this, or you could do this, or you could do this. Here is the sort of feedback we have had from the community on it.'”