Key facility still ‘on the table’

LATROBE Valley leaders are hopeful a key research facility proposed for Monash University Gippsland will remain “on the table” despite Monash’s plan to withdraw from the local campus.

The Gippsland Centre for Sustainable Industries has been named a future priority for the region in numerous reports and plans over the past three years.

Key regional organisations have lobbied to have the project funded and developed at Monash Gippsland.

The CSI has been identified as a key response to the regional economy’s transitional needs in a “carbon constrained world”.

It proposes a high level research facility, developing new clean energy technologies, through a collaboration between Monash Gippsland and Gippsland regional industry, education and government stakeholders.

The project has been driven by Monash University and its own material describes it as a “multi-nodal institution with links across Monash” and one which would draw on involvement from other areas of Monash, including its Clayton campus and the Monash Sustainability Institute. The proposed centre, to focus on brown coal and energy research, features in the Gippsland Regional Plan and Latrobe Valley Transition Committee report as one deserving of federal and state government support. On Friday Professor Mark Sandeman, chair of the working group for the Gippsland Centre for Sustainable Technologies, told The Express he had been advised Monash would “stand behind” the CSI and Monash’s decision to leave Gippsland would not change the proposal “one iota”. Professor Sandeman said he believed discussions had been held between Monash and all levels of government about continued support for CSI but the detail of how that support might be delivered had “not been worked out yet.”

Regional Development Australia Gippsland chair Richard Elkington said members of the Monash advisory council had advised RDA that Monash intended to retain its geotechnical expertise at the Gippsland campus in the same way it would keep its medical school local.

The CSI was “still a regional priority regardless of who the university is,” he added, saying a potential alliance of the Gippsland campus with the University of Ballarat, which had its own technology hub, also offered “positives”.

Mr Elkington acknowledged the research capacity of Monash was well regarded but said there was “nothing to suggest” University of Ballarat did not have “it’s own high quality research capacity”.

“This could give us an opportunity to create something different… and innovation focused… where we leverage off the strengths of Ballarat for a new arrangement.”