DETERMINED TO FIGHT: Phil, Monica and Sharron Barker who live on Washpool Rd are fighting the proposed powerline.
DETERMINED TO FIGHT: Phil, Monica and Sharron Barker who live on Washpool Rd are fighting the proposed powerline. Jenna Cairney

Health fears spark protest

AFTER quitting her job as the first female linesperson in South Australia, Sharron Barker had no desire to see another powerline.

Mrs Barker suffered ill health while working for an energy company and after finishing work.

She's had three miscarriages, endometriosis, migraines and other health issues, which she attributes to working in close proximity to powerlines and electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

"It does scare me that some other health issue from working as a linesperson could come up in the future," she said.

Now she and her family face having 25m poles just 40m from their home on Warwick's Washpool Rd.

"We moved here nine years ago," Mrs Barker said.

"We were very aware of the environment we live in now and chose a property that didn't have powerlines."

A proposed new Ergon Energy 110kv line to Stanthorpe would cut right through the family's 14-hectare property, 40m from their home and just 20 metres from their industrial shed.

The family is just one of many banding together to try and fight the plans.

Taking inspiration from a movement south of the border, which saw plans for a NSW line thrown out due to health concerns, posters and billboards encouraging locals to "fight" the plans have started appearing around Warwick.

A group has formed and is having regular meetings, researching, writing letters, petitions and refusing to take the powerline lying down.

While the Southern Downs Regional Council initially took a back seat, last week at the general meeting councillors voted to have a special meeting with Ergon Energy officials to discuss the issues.

This follows a heated public meeting earlier this month.

While Ergon is still going through public consultation and says nothing is yet set in stone, a spokesman explained why the existing 33kv line south of Warwick could not be upgraded.

"The existing line is unable to provide the required capacity at acceptable voltage levels," he said.

"A new 33kV line on the same alignment would be more expensive than the preferred option, be difficult to construct, have higher levels of EMFs and have more houses within 100m.

"Ergon Energy has completed its assessment of the other identified options and it is clear the preferred option is superior to them, so they have not been directly included in the consultation process.

"These options were identified in the second newsletter only so that residents could have a better understanding of how the preferred corridor was determined."

Regarding potential health impacts the spokesman said Ergon Energy had a policy of "prudent avoidance", based on national and international guidelines for safe exposure to EMFs.

"The powerlines within the proposed corridor conform to our policy by a substantial margin," he said.

"Modelling shows that at the edge of the easement, the level of EMFs would be similar to or less than those from a television set or from a computer."

Alan and Diane Jones, who live on Sandy Creek Rd, are concerned it conflicts directly with the town planning scheme.

"We all support Stanthorpe having an upgraded power service but we would like to have the decisions about line placement reconsidered in the light of the impact it will make on our lives," they wrote in a letter to the Daily News.


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