Work up for grabs

A PROPOSED $45 million retail precinct for Warragul is tipped to create up to 600 jobs, including about 200 construction jobs Latrobe Valley workers can vie for.

A State Government planning decision announced Tuesday paved the way for longtime Warragul-based development company Jana Group to begin securing prospective tenants for its proposed ‘bulky goods precinct’.

The company said it hoped the project would capture some of the estimated $200 million in “spend” currently leaving the region for areas including Chadstone and Narre Warren.

After State Planning Minister Matthew Guy introduced a ‘special use zone’ to a 14 acre site about two kilometres to the east of Warragul’s town centre, Jana Group development and projects manager Jayman Prestidge said the company planned to build a “visually appealing and vast ‘homemaker precinct’ ” on the land.

Despite facing “really tough economic times”, Mr Prestidge said he believed Jana could attract the tenants required to see the development proceed, saying “it would be ideal if we could be building by the end of the year but it is about attracting the right tenants.”

“Things are tough, so you have to put together packages tenants can afford and we are dealing with a few already,” he said.

A number of key building-related contracts will be put to tender as part of up to $30 million worth of construction work expected to take place on the site over a 12 to 18-month period and Mr Prestidge said Valley-based companies “right across the building and construction sector” should “absolutely” vie for the work.

He said if the site, likened to ‘homemaker precincts’ around Fountain Gate in Narre Warren and on the eastern side of Traralgon, was filled, it would create about 400 ongoing retail-based positions.

This week’s planning decision also prevented fragmentation of the Warragul central business district by ensuring the retail centre site could not accommodate standard retail shops, easing community concerns over “potentially another Mid Valley type situation”, Mr Prestidge said.

He was referring to a decision years ago to build a major retail shopping centre, Mid Valley, away from Morwell’s central business district, splitting the town’s retail sector.

State Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood also welcomed the planning decision, saying the project would “give the people of West Gippsland more local choices for whitegoods, furniture, camping and outdoor equipment, building and homemaker products”.

Mr Guy said the centre would have “significant flow-on effects for the local community and businesses, delivering new jobs and attracting further business investment”.