The Federal Government has heard Latrobe City Council’s call for a taskforce to oversee the City’s transition to a new era in the lead-up to the closure of the Yallourn power station in 2028.
Energy Australia, the power station owner, last week announced it would close the Yallourn four years earlier than planned. This will result in the loss of approximately 500 jobs at the power station and also impact businesses that service it.
A Council delegation, including Mayor Cr Sharon Gibson and Deputy Mayor Cr Darren Howe, this week met with Members of Parliament – including Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, and Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen – and their staff in Canberra.
The meetings, with Members of Parliament from both sides of government, were opportune for Latrobe City representatives to advocate for a ‘Strength Led Transition’ to a new economy not dependent on coal-fired electricity production, while drawing on the City’s strengths.
“We discussed with key players the need for a considered and whole of government approach to support the ongoing transition of the Latrobe City community,” Cr Gibson said.
Latrobe City has been the powerhouse and facilitator of economic success for communities and industries across Victoria and Australia for decades.
Council representatives spoke to both sides of government looking for unified support to create the next phase of the region’s history and prosperity. It is key that a bipartisan approach is achieved, thus ensuring a long-term solution that will traverse potential elections.
Cr Gibson said while Energy Australia gave the community seven years’ notice of the Yallourn closure, she said that time would pass quickly.
“We need to hit the ground running. We have no time to waste. The Deputy Mayor and myself took the opportunity to impress on the representatives in Canberra the need to consider how they can assist our region to overcome the challenges we have in front of us,” Cr Gibson said.
“For over 100 years the Latrobe Valley community has ensured that Victoria’s lights have shone brightly, and the region has also enabled manufacturing and industry in this state through reliable base load energy.
“It is only fair that the communities of Latrobe City are supported. It is not much to ask given the role our region has played in the prosperity of the state and indeed, the country.”
Cr Gibson said Council was under no illusions that the region has a big challenge ahead.
“The impacts of the sudden closure of Hazelwood can still be felt. We know the closure of Yallourn will eventually be followed by the closure of the Loy Yang power station complex,” she said.
“We need to advocate strongly and impress on all levels of government that we cannot go this alone. We need their support. We need their commitment to deliver on opportunities to create new industry initiatives that reshape and drive the economy, that create jobs and nurture social wellbeing.
“It is our responsibility to ensure the region is able to prosper despite the challenges ahead. We are advocating not only for our generation, but for our grandchildren and the generations to come.”
Cr Gibson has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, and State and Federal Opposition Leaders for support, by way of membership, to form a Latrobe City Taskforce.
“This taskforce will take responsibility for developing the immediate and longer-term vision, authority and support to make the important decisions, and lock in the necessary funding to deliver identified objectives and outcomes to secure our future,” she said.
The taskforce would be led by Latrobe City and complement the work Council has undertaken in the transition to a new economy over the past decade.
The development of Council’s ‘Strength Led Transition’ document followed the Hazelwood Closure announcement in November 2016 and is still applicable today.
Council looks forward to working with the governments and oppositions to achieve the best outcome possible for the Latrobe City community.