Billion-dollar power link faces landowner resistance

Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS

A controversial billion-dollar power line project could be stalled by ongoing disputes, with permission yet to be granted for access to a quarter of the land in its proposed pathway.

The planned overhead HumeLink transmission line to Sydney from the state's south will be a crucial component in the National Electricity Market, but it has drawn criticism from farmers, local communities and environmental groups.

The 500-kilovolt connection involves running wires through bush and prime farmland, leading to calls for the Transgrid project - initially slated to cost $3.3 billion but now priced at nearly $4.9 billion - to be laid underground.

A NSW parliamentary inquiry is examining the feasibility of putting the lines underground, despite the company arguing this could lead to long project delays and major cost blowouts.

Transgrid has been in negotiations with landowners to gain consent to enter their properties and survey the land.

It has secured agreement from three-quarters of those in the proposed pathway which amounts to just under 250km of the total 328km project.

But the owners of about one-quarter of the affected land are yet to provide their approval for surveyors to enter their properties, documents provided to the inquiry show.

Greens MP and infrastructure spokesperson Cate Faehrmann said the figures made it clear Transgrid had no social licence to go ahead with the project as planned.

"Landholders sent a very strong message to the committee that they will fight hard to stop overhead transmission lines being built, but if they were to go underground, they'd allow access to their property tomorrow," she told AAP.

"Transgrid cannot justify overhead transmission lines for HumeLink because of urgency and then ignore the fact that only underground transmission lines have the social licence to start tomorrow."

Ms Faehrmann urged the NSW government to intervene to stop overhead lines from going ahead or risk facing resistance from landholders.

Transgrid has put the price of putting the entire project underground at up to $17 billion.

Energy Minister Penny Sharpe has said various options were still being looked at to limit the impact of the project if they didn't add to its cost and timeline.

Liberal MP Wendy Tuckerman, whose Goulburn electorate is in the project's pathway, said she was concerned about the effect of the proposed route on properties.

She said the towers were significant in size and were proposed to travel across prime agricultural land.

"It is imperative that landholders are listened to, our farmers have been dealt some tough blows through drought, floods and bushfire," she said.

Ms Tuckerman acknowledged the infrastructure was needed but said it could not just be imposed on communities and landholders. 

A Transgrid spokeswoman said the company sought to negotiate entry on all private properties and would continue speaking with landowners in the coming months.

The company also has the ability to use compulsory acquisition as a last resort.

"Transgrid remains committed to HumeLink's completion by 2026, " the spokeswoman said.