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More than 200 workers on the EnergyConnect project, Australia’s largest transmission project, will be housed in a self-contained camp that has opened at Lockhart in the Riverina.

EnergyConnect will allow energy to be shared between New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria and enable the connection of more new renewable generation.

Transgrid and construction partner Elecnor Australia are building the 700km New South Wales section of the project from Wagga Wagga to the South Australian border, and a connection to Red Cliffs in Victoria.

The 20ha camp at Lockhart will accommodate workers who will be building the eastern section of the project between Wagga Wagga and Buronga, New South Wales.

Transgrid Executive General Manager of Major Projects, Gordon Taylor, said, “Providing quality accommodation is a key step in progressing construction as it nears Wagga Wagga and ensures people are safe and comfortable while working away from home.

“Camps like this one at Lockhart allow us to bring workers into local communities without taking up housing local families may need. It’s a simple way we can help ease pressure on the rental market and accommodation providers.

“EnergyConnect is already providing a huge boost to local communities and it’s exciting to see the first workers moving into this latest purpose-built facility,” My Taylor said.

The Lockhart camp is one of six along the EnergyConnect route which will house more than 1,300 workers for the mega project.

Elecnor Australia Project Director, Samuel Basanta Lopez, said, “Our camp strategy is focused predominantly on ensuring our worker health and safety. The distances our employees must travel to our work sites is an important factor in determining our camp locations to manage fatigue.

“Most of our workers will be housed in purpose-built temporary work camps which are state-of-the-art.

This approach is also intended to reduce pressure on the local rental market and commercial accommodation; and it ensures travel to site is minimised,” Mr Basanta Lopez said.

Each bedroom at the Lockhart camp includes its own ensuite bathroom, fridge, TV and air-conditioning.

There is a full kitchen and dining mess to provide hot meals, as well as a gym, prayer and recreation rooms, a first aid centre, wi-fi and office spaces plus areas for heavy vehicles and equipment.

Chris Spooner, 28, from Sydney is among the first workers to have moved into the camp.

“It’s been great, you’ve got a gym, the food is fantastic – I’m a bit scared I will put on a lot of weight because the chef is too good.

“The rooms are really comfortable, you’ve got television, air-con, your fridge, all your creature comforts,” Mr Spooner said.

James Bell, 34, from the Gold Coast is also enjoying life at the camp.

“I used to be a scaffolder, so I’ve been in a lot of camps but this one is right up there with the best of them. The food is definitely a highlight, it’s top notch, they’re looking after us really well,” Mr Bell said.

Melbourne father of four Junior Tato said the camp provides a sense of community for workers away from their families.

“You get to mingle with lots of different nationalities and cultures and you learn a lot during the stay here as well.

“The camp and the facilities help take your mind off things a little bit when you’re with the crew and just mingling, so definitely a great facility here as well as people,” Mr Tato said.

Additional camps will also be established at Dinawan, near Coleambally and Cobb Highway near Hay, New South Wales.

Construction on the western section of EnergyConnect from Buronga to South Australia commenced in mid-2022 and work is now progressing on the eastern section between Wagga and Buronga.

The project is creating up to 1,500 jobs, primarily in regional New South Wales, and contributing $4 billion in net economic benefits.

EnergyConnect has so far invested more than $75 million with 150 local and First Nations businesses in the Riverina, Murray and Sunraysia regions.

Featured image: The accommodation for workers at Lockhart, Riverina. Courtesy of Transgrid.

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