Hope to save tourist landmark

A COMMUNITY push to save Morwell’s landmark tourist institution, PowerWorks, is underway, with a transitioning committee established to explore alternative business models which could sustain the centre’s operation.

The committee’s formation comes after a meeting last week, facilitated by Latrobe City Council, held to gauge community sentiment over the upcoming closure, attracted a turnout of about 30 people, including community members and tourism industry stakeholders.

Latrobe City councillor Darrell White, who chaired the meeting, said there was a “clear message” the community saw PowerWorks as an icon in the Latrobe Valley landscape.

“PowerWorks represents the historic significance of the Latrobe Valley power industry, which has created so many opportunities for migrants to settle here and has helped the economic climate we enjoy in state of Victoria,” Cr White said.

“There needs to be a proper examination of the possible options now; models in which PowerWorks could continue to be run sustainably.”

PowerWorks announced in October it was closing its doors on 21 December after recording losses of more than $660,000 over the past two years, despite a $4 million injection from shareholders International Power-GDF SUEZ Hazelwood, AGL Loy Yang and Yallourn’s owner EnergyAustralia.

The closure to the public was largely blamed on a tourism exodus in the brown coal sector, in which local mines and power stations had a 50 per cent drop in visitors over the past four years.

Cr White said a model which involved a community based not-for-profit organisation operating the centre was flagged as a possibility at the meeting.

“While it’s important the centre continues to provide public understanding of the journey we’ve been on from horse-and-cart times, we also need to think about future, so a (re-opened) centre would need to embrace information about the emerging technologies going into the future,” he said.

The steering committee is due to meet on Wednesday.