Imagine for a moment that an energy company has knocked on your door to announce they'd like to erect huge pillars around your house with great transmission wires soaring over your roof to disappear into the expanse of suburbia beyond.
Maybe that same company likes the idea of installing a sea of solar panels in your back yard, or perhaps they think giant wind turbines would make a nice sight from your windows.
And further imagine that when you oppose these ideas, you are told it is a case of bad luck.
Your property can be compulsorily acquired whether you like it or not for transmission lines to be built, and the projects will go ahead anyway, or you learn you have limited rights to object to developments that are built right next door and turn the landscape into an industrial park.
It is preposterous of course. Surely, that could never happen. Well, something similar is in fact happening to people in rural areas of our electorate, and it barely seems to matter what they think of it.
I am referring of course to renewable energy projects such as HumeLink and the Maxwell solar proposal and other infrastructure being built or proposed across the region.
We should welcome renewable energy as the way to a cleaner, greener future with reduced carbon emissions and reliable, cheap power for all.
The problem is not that such projects are being planned and delivered but that they're taking shape without the appropriate social licence - that is, the views and feedback of affected communities. Currently, those in the path of renewable energy works are often being told what will happen, rather than asked how the projects might work.
Developers say they are doing appropriate 'stakeholder engagement' but true engagement, and the social licence it delivers, comes from listening to people's concerns and acting on them, not just taking feedback for the sake of it.
We have seen this with the HumeLink project, where community consultation was so woeful it led to a scathing report by Rod Stowe, the former head of Fair Trading.
Consultation has improved since, but many landowners still feel unheard, especially on the issue of undergrounding the power lines.
Now we have solar factory developments where adjacent landowners believe their concerns are not being addressed.
There does not seem to be anywhere near true consultation, and it does not deliver social licence. Is it any wonder that many rural people are vehemently opposed to cables, solar panels or turbines cropping up on valuable farmland?
That opposition was starkly illustrated in Canberra recently when farmers protested against rampant renewables development without real and meaningful dialogue.
It came as the final report from the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner's Community Engagement Review found 92 per cent of landholders and community members were unhappy with consultation on renewable energy projects planned for rural and regional NSW.
As NSW Farmers said in a media release, this rural opposition to renewables is not about 'NIMBY-ism' but is about finding ways of balancing development with retaining farm productivity through proper consultation.
I have made this very point in a submission to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) which is developing a path towards the transformation to low-cost renewables across Australia, and I hope they take it on board.
It is not too late to change course in this debate.
The solution lies in developers winning that social licence, compromising where possible, acting on stakeholder concerns and working with communities instead of against them.
In this way, renewable energy projects may become a welcome addition to our landscape, not a liability, and farmers, developers, the environment and consumers will be the winners in a cleaner future.
- Dr Joe McGirr is the Member for Wagga Wagga.