A major tourism group for the Daylesford area has warned the proposed Western Victoria Transmission Network Project could have a multi-million dollar effect on the visitor economy.
The project intends to build high-voltage overhead transmission lines from Bulgana, near Stawell, to Melbourne's west, crossing over valuable agricultural land.
Proponents AusNet are currently completing studies for the project's Environmental Effects Statement, and construction is not set to begin for some years - a final route for the project has not been identified yet, though the narrowed corridor of interest indicates it will travel through Waubra and Tourello then south through Dean and Newlyn before continuing north of the freeway.
Daylesford Macedon Tourism chief executive Steve Wroe said businesses that rely on tourism in the area, already reeling from COVID-19, are already worried.
"We're provided with research from people like Visit Victoria, which show what the key drivers of visits are, and the very top one is taking a scenic drive, then there's access to nature and exploring historic villages, and others are specifically related to quality of local produce," he said.
"The visual pollution alone, the ugliness of these things, will be a deterrent to tourism.
"After COVID, (tourism) will be the number one industry for Hepburn Shire, it's a $300m visitor economy just in Hepburn, and many thousands of jobs.
"Anything that is detrimental to tourism - and tourism is driven by pristine environments and scenic drives and access to nature - will have a measurable impact on the visitor economy, and it's not unlikely that construction of these powerlines will result in a ... decrease in visitation, that's potentially tens of millions of dollars."
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He echoed many opponents to the project, who have been pushing for the lines to be placed underground, and said Daylesford Macedon Tourism is preparing a submission for the EES.
He said there was an understanding about the need for the project, to help distribution of renewable energy, but "there just needs to be flexibility in terms of the delivery".
AusNet is calling for more engagement from landholders across the district - last week, it confirmed it will continue its community consultation group after several members resigned in protest.
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