Energetic event hailed a success

Attendees gathered in Sale's Cobb & Co Stables for the final day of the Gippsland New Energy Conference. Photo: Tom Parry

Organisers of the Gippsland New Energy Conference (GNEC) have hailed the inaugural event a success.

At least 380 people attended the two-day forum, which concluded on Friday, August 16.

Delegates from the private and public sector heard speeches and seminars from industry leaders and representatives from all three levels of government.

Latrobe Valley Authority chief executive Chris Buckingham, who helped facilitate the conference, said that his organisation “couldn’t be happier” with the outcome.

“All of the conversations I’ve had over the last couple of days tell me that these developers, these investors are coming in with really solid values and a culture (saying) they want to make this work, and they want to make work in the region,” Mr Buckingham said.

“They’re committed to establishing local supply chains, employing local people; supporting training and education to build capacity.

“We are on the cusp of an economic boom like no other, and for us, to have the region come together with the investors and the developers and the decision-makers, and to have a really mature conversation about what we want it to be, means that I think for the first time in many years, we’re going to have the opportunity to call our own future on this.”

The conference was jointly run by the Gippsland Climate Change Network, with its chief executive Darren McCubbin acting as the event’s coordinator.

Mr McCubbin said the conference had put Gippsland on the map, noting it had attracted interest from interstate, and internationally.

“So Gippsland … is on the world stage in terms of its ability to create renewable sources of power,” he said.

Darren McCubbin closing the Gippsland New Energy Conference.
Photo: Tom Parry

While most speakers and attendees at the conference were in favour of renewable energy, Mr Buckingham and Mr McCubbin acknowledged that not everybody was feeling easy about the transition.

The opening of the event saw campaigners outside The Wedge highlighting issues such as wind turbines disrupting native fauna, and overhead powerlines being planned without landholder approval – as reported in the Gippsland Times on August 12.

“I think one of the things that has stood out to me is that not everybody’s on the train,” Mr McCubbin said.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime change, and it’s about setting-up new infrastructure and new changes, and that’s not going to be good for everyone.

“But I think the point that Chris makes is really clear – Gippsland needs to control this, we don’t need to be controlled by it.”

His sentiment was echoed by Mr Buckingham.

“I was really struck yesterday, coming here to Sale from a different part of Gippsland, and driving in and seeing those farmers – and they were farmers, they were locals; they weren’t rent-a-crowd – behaving in such a dignified and respectful way, and having conversations with people about what was important to them,” Mr Buckingham said.

“I can tell you now the mood inside (The Wedge) was, ‘We want to be on this journey with them’.

“This is not an us-versus-them argument, this is about making sure everybody understands what’s going on.

“We’re in this together.”