Transmission Company Victoria (TCV) is required to prepare an Environment Effects Statement (EES) for the VNI West project as confirmed by the Victorian Minister for Planning in April 2024. 

The EES is Victoria’s most rigorous assessment of potential environmental impacts for major projects, overseen by the Victorian Department of Transport and Planning (DTP) under the Environment Effects Act 1978.

VNI West is an important project to build a new high voltage overhead transmission line between Victoria and NSW. It will harness renewable electricity from renewable energy zones (REZs) in both states and improve the reliability and security of electricity supply as ageing coal-fired power stations retire.

The DTP will appoint a Technical Reference Group (TRG) to provide advice throughout the EES process. Agencies invited to participate in the TRG will include representatives from government agencies, regional authorities, municipal councils, and registered Aboriginal parties (RAPs)  with statutory, policy, or technical interests in the project. 

As part of the EES process, TCV will undertake a program of expert studies and assessments on a range of matters, which are likely to include cultural and historic heritage, economic benefits, social and community considerations, health and the environment.

In the reasons for her decision, Minister Sonya Kilkenny highlighted key areas of focus for assessment: 

  • The nominated area of interest for the project is significant in length and size and includes areas of significant environmental values, including native vegetation and ecological values, agricultural and other land uses, aboriginal cultural values, visual and landscape values and other social values. 
  • There are alignment and design alternatives for the project requiring assessment and refinement in relation to opportunities for avoidance and/or minimisation of potentially significant effects. 
  • An EES responds to community interest in project siting, alignment and design alternatives by providing appropriate opportunities for public input.

EES studies

Ecology surveys are used to identify important environmental values, such as wildlife habitats and vegetation. These surveys typically include non-invasive ground investigations, including site walkovers and photography.

These surveys allow TCV to identify flora and fauna within the draft corridor, including threatened plant species and native animals. This information allows the project to predict the likelihood of species occurrence in the region.

EES Process

Ultimately, an independent advisory panel appointed by DTP would review all submissions to the EES and make a recommendation to the Minister as to whether the VNI West project would have an acceptable impact on the environment.

The VNI West project must complete the EES process, and obtain relevant Victorian and Commonwealth approvals, before construction can commence. 

The VNI West project was also referred to the Commonwealth Environment Minister to consider whether approval is required under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999. The Minister confirmed in June 2024 that VNI West is a ‘Controlled Action’ requiring assessment and approval under the EPBC Act and will be assessed under the assessment bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments.

The EES studies, assessments and project engineering design will take place through 2024 and 2025. Construction is scheduled to commence in 2026, should the project secure all required approvals.

The Department of Transport and Planning (DTP) has established an independent Technical Reference Group (TRG) to provide oversight and advice throughout the Environment Effects Statement (EES) process. The primary role of the TRG is to advise DTP on matters that should be studied as part of the EES and the adequacy of the studies once complete. 

The TRG will advise DTP on the draft scoping requirements for the EES, including the comprehensive technical studies to be conducted over the next 12 – 18 months to assess the potential impact of the project.

DTP will seek feedback on the draft scoping requirements, providing landholders and community members the opportunity to have their say via a formal consultation process in coming months.

More information on the TRG and its role can be found at Planning Victoria.

Further information regarding the VNI West EES process can be found in our fact sheet.

Environment Effects Statement

TCV’s Environment Effects Statement referral can be found on the DTP website here

The Minister’s decision on the VNI West project referral can be found on the DTP website.