Latrobe Valley towns overlooked

CONNECTING some of the Latrobe Valley’s smaller communities to sources of natural gas has not been identified as a State Government priority as it rolls out a $100 million energy strategy.

On Saturday Deputy Premier and Regional and Rural Development Minister Peter Ryan announced the next phase of the government’s rollout of its Energy for the Regions program.

The government had already reached agreements for regional gas projects in Mildura and Huntly and would now focus its energy on delivering natural gas to about 12 other “priority communities” including Lakes Entrance and Orbost, Mr Ryan said.

Yallourn North is one local community that has long pushed for natural gas connection to its town.

Yallourn North Action Group spokesperson David Hood told The Express this week though the community was “keen to see it happen here”, it possibly needed to “push it higher on our list of priorities” in light of the government’s recent announcement.

State Member for Morwell Russell Northe said Tyers, Glengarry and Yinnar had also expressed interest in natural gas connection.

According to Mr Northe, “priority communities” generally needed to establish an economic benefit to securing the connection and required council support for their applications.

“It is not an easy exercise,” Mr Northe said. “The main impediment is that gas distribution companies require a return on their investment and the economic viability of expanding supply has to meet quite stringent criteria.”

“It’s one of those things, do you put the cart before the horse, or vice versa.

“It makes it difficult for smaller communities who don’t have large industries or lots of residential properties to meet the economic criteria set.”

In his statement, Mr Ryan said the expanded strategy, due to commence in the second half of 2012, would include a plan to offer gas distributors a fixed subsidy ‘bounty’ amount to supply priority towns.