There's no Plan B, Hunter property owner Mark Clifton says of his dealings with the government agency charged with building the state's renewable energy transmission infrastructure.
EnergyCo representatives recently came to Mr Clifton's family with plans to construct two 80 metre wide easements through the centre of their grazing property on Inglewood Road outside of Muswellbrook.
While the route was initially pitched as a proposal, it became quickly apparent there was little room to negotiate.
"They basically turn up and say this is what we want to do. If you don't like it we will resume the land," Mr Clifton said.
The reality is the two 500 kilovolt power lines, which will connect the New England Renewable Energy Zone to Bayswater Power Station, would effectively destroy the 280 hectare property's commercial value.
Yet EnergyCo has refused to buy the land. Rather it has offered a compensation package, which the government insists is extremely attractive.
"It's a long skinny block (2.5 kilometres long by a kilometre wide)," Mr Clifton said.
"I've tried to be cooperative. I said, look, I understand it has to go through the middle of the block, so take the whole place.
"I'm happy to sell it but they will only talk about compensation. They said they will value it before the transmission lines go in and value it after and give me the difference."
The EnergyCo plan has torpedoed the Clifton family's plans to sell the property as a lifestyle block.
"Twelve months ago it would have been worth a lot of money but no one in their right mind will touch it after this. No one wants to live under a high voltage transmission line," Mr Clifton, a former power station electrician, said.
EnergyCo spokeswoman said landowners hosting critical transmission infrastructure would be paid compensation under the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 (the Act).
In addition to Just Terms compensation, the NSW Government has established a Strategic Benefit Payment Scheme, which will see landowners paid a set rate of $200,000 per kilometre of transmission hosted (in real 2022 dollars), paid in annual instalments over 20 years.
"EnergyCo's strong preference is to acquire property interests by agreement and this includes investigating opportunities to suit landowner preferences about where transmission lines are located through their properties," the spokeswoman said.
The preliminary study corridor for the New England REZ project was released in June 2023. Consultation with the community, landowners and key stakeholders as part of a process designed to refine the corridor. A preferred corridor is expected to be released in early 2024.
Meanwhile the EnergyCo this week released a preliminary route map for the Hunter Transmission Project, which will connect Bayswater and Eraring Power Stations.
The project, which the government says needs to be operational by early 2028, will transfer renewable energy from the New England and Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zones to homes and businesses in the Hunter, Sydney and the Illawarra.
The preliminary route map shows the project will run across a combination of mining and industrial land, state forest and private property between Muswellbrook and Lake Macquarie.
Between Bayswater and Broke, the corridor runs mostly through land owned by power stations and mining companies.
It then heads into the Pokolbin, Corrabare and Olney State forests (which are primarily used for growing commercial and native timber), before following the existing 500 kV transmission line through Martinsville and Cooranbong to Eraring.
"Infrastructure projects can sometimes require the benefits of us all to be borne by just a few. We need to understand their issues, mitigate impact where possible and compensate where necessary," he said.
"I fiercely reject any proposals by the federal or state government that wish to fast track transmission and renewable energy projects."