Australia — More than nine kilometres of bare overhead power lines at the foot of Mount Dandenong will soon be pulled down and put underground or replaced with insulated cable, in a landmark program to reduce the risk of bushfire for thousands of residents in some of the state’s most vulnerable communities.
They will be removed in two residential areas on the southern side of Montrose and Kilsyth, just below the thickly forested Dandenong Ranges National Park and the steep north-west-facing slopes of Mount Dandenong.
The two projects on Melbourne’s eastern fringe are the first among six high-voltage power line replacement projects to be undertaken this financial year – at a cost of $8.7 million. Four of the projects will be in the Otways, where other communities face serious risk of bushfire.
The works will be funded by the state government’s $200 million power line replacement fund, which is part of a wider $750 million program to reduce the risk of power lines starting bushfires. Advertisement
Last week digging was under way in Stephen Avenue, Montrose, in preparation for the burying of high-voltage power lines.
Further up the slope in nearby Sheffield Road, where high-voltage power lines will be buried and low-voltage lines insulated and bundled together, Montrose resident Joe Wouters welcomed the project.
”I think it’s good,” he said. ”It must be a terribly expensive project taking many man hours, but at the same time, it’s pretty essential, to get this work out of the way.”
Mr Wouters, an 81-year-old former electrical contractor, said: ”I can remember back in ’63 I think it was, when the mountain was on fire.
”It wasn’t a pleasant sight, not at all. So anything that can be done to prevent bushfires from starting or happening is pretty well essential,” he said.
Energy Minister Nick Kotsiras said the process was ”a crucial part of our $750 million program to make Victorians safer from bushfires started by power lines”.
Fire authorities and the government believe the projects at the base of Mount Dandenong will significantly reduce the risk of electricity-related bushfires and help protect the Mount Dandenong transmission towers, the national park, Silvan Reservoir, and local tourist attractions.
Phil Bryant, network safety manager for power company SP AusNet, said the Montrose and Kilsyth projects complemented the company’s other programs to mitigate fire risk.
”The upgraded electricity assets will enhance the safety and supply reliability of electricity to customers by reducing power outages and potential fire starts from falling debris, and animal interference,” Mr Bryant said.
”Work is progressing well and we are on track to complete the projects by the end of June 2014,” he said.
The power line replacement works are in response to recommendations from the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, which called for power lines to be made safer.