As CFA dignitaries and media filed into the new CFA volunteer training centre in Ballan earlier this week, 30 or so residents picketed the entrance to protest the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project.
Organised by opposition group Stop AusNet's Towers, the aim was to catch the attention of the politicians attending the training centre's opening.
The project involves building high-voltage overhead transmission lines from Bulgana, near Ararat, to Melbourne's western edge, connecting new renewable energy generators in the state's west to the grid, and increasing grid capacity.
AusNet Services won the contract to design and build the powerlines, but has faced immense community opposition - residents and landholders say there are concerns about the impact on valuable agricultural land, fire risks, and the effect on the environment and tourism.
The project is currently undergoing an Environmental Effects Statement study, which will need to be approved by the state government's planning minister Richard Wynne.
While Mr Wynne was not attending the event in Ballan, state Attorney General Jaclyn Symes and local MPs did, with several police officers keeping an eye on the protest.
Stop AusNet's Towers chair Emma Muir said locals wanted to be heard by the state government.
"We're here to make sure the minister sees us, because the state government won't come to us, we've come to them, we want to say 'why have you built this amazing facility but thrown us under the bus?'" she said.
"We're happy to work with the government and AusNet to do this properly, and we'll get it done, we will, but not with overhead powerlines.
"Find a solution the community's on board with and you'll be able to come through here quickly, we'll be able to help you - but not in this format will we acknowledge it, and we'll continue to fight and demonstrate to say this isn't what the community wants.
"We ask our local politicians to come and support us, find a different way - if this doesn't get sorted now, this will be an election issue, and we'll vote for the party that changes this project."
Asked about the project, the CFA's chief officer Jason Heffernan said he was "not personally aware of the issues" surrounding the project.
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"Transmission lines are one part of the things we've known previously to start fires, along with everything like lightning, and I know our power companies are doing everything they can do in order to (prevent) that, but for me, the main thing here is to celebrate the achievement of our volunteers and the CFA," he told media at the Ballan event.
AusNet has consistently called for more community engagement through the EES process, and as it plans the final route for the powerlines.
On-farm surveys have begun, and the company has offered up to repay up to $1000 for independent legal advice for landholders.
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