Local pollies seek commitment on LVA

Impasse over Latrobe Valley electric car plant

GIPPSLAND’S politicians have called on the state government to clearly outline whether the Latrobe Valley Authority has a future, and how the region will be assisted to transition and grow new jobs.

The authority’s funding was extended beyond June 30 as part of COVID-19 recovery measures.

It was established in 2016 by the state government to help Latrobe City Council and Baw Baw and Wellington shire councils deal with the economic fallout of the closure of Hazelwood Power Station, by providing financial support to community-minded projects.

LVA funding was scheduled to expire at the end of last financial year, but the government confirmed it would continue to be funded beyond June 30 through the global budget for the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, with Karen Cain remaining as chief executive.

Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien called on the government in state parliament to make clear whether it would be supporting the Latrobe Valley Authority into the future.

“The LVA’s funding was scheduled to run out in June, but was extended as part of COVID-19 arrangements until the forthcoming state budget,” he said.

“The transition and need for new jobs and industry in the Latrobe Valley hasn’t gone away, and the government needs to show how it’s going to continue to support Gippsland going into the future.”

Mr O’Brien said the early closure of Hazelwood in 2017 and other challenges continued to loom over Gippsland.

“We last year had the disastrous announcement that the government will shut down the native timber industry, and its energy policies are clearly threatening to bring forward the closure of Yallourn Power Station before its scheduled closure in 2032,” he said.

Eastern Victoria MLC Melina Bath added now was not the time for the government to turn its back on the Latrobe Valley.

“There are serious questions about whether the LVA has provided value for money or whether it’s been more a vehicle for Labor government photo opportunities,” she said.

“However it’s certain that there needs to be continuing support for the Valley and Gippsland industries going forward and it’s up to the government to show it cares.”

The local politicians compared the government’s $266 million on the LVA and its claims to have helped create 2500 jobs – at $106,000 of taxpayers’ money per job – to the former government’s $15 million Latrobe Valley Industry and Infrastructure Fund, which created 1200 jobs at $12,500 per job.

Some of the projects the LVA has funded locally include the refurbishment of many of Wellington Shire’s halls, upgrades to the Sale Showgrounds, a new synthetic green for Heyfield Bowls Club, major upgrades to the Cameron Sporting Complex in Maffra, clubroom refurbishment for the Maffra Lawn Tennis Club and new courts at the Sale Tennis Club.