Engagement ongoing

A PROPOSAL to open up the Latrobe Valley’s brown coal reserves for future development will be subject to further “market engagement” efforts by the State Government.

While Latrobe City Council last year urged the State Government to publish guidelines and criteria for its coal allocation tender process quickly, to enable it to capitalise on interest from Chinese companies, yesterday the government released a statement indicating it was no closer to a decision.

Early last year the State Government confirmed it intended to promote the development of the Valley’s brown coal reserves by opening them up to investors with new technologies.

Market assessments commenced with decisions expected by last December but the government delayed any announcements by six months.

However, instead of announcing the details of a tender process yesterday, State Development Minister Peter Ryan said it would now commence a “deeper market engagement process”.

Mr Ryan maintained there had been “significant local and international interest” in the Valley’s coal but said government would now seek “industry views” on potential developments.

“Depending on the market feedback, the Coalition Government will make a decision on whether to go to a formal process,” he said.

“Any decision to proceed to tender and to ultimately allocate the Latrobe Valley’s coal resources will be guided by the potential to secure long-term economic development, investment and employment benefits for the Latrobe Valley and Victoria.

“The Coalition Government will make an announcement on the next stage of this process following the market engagement initiative.”

Months ago Latrobe City chief executive Paul Buckley said council was keenly awaiting outcomes from the process to provide “certainty for the community in terms of… the location of future allocations so we get planning for urban development in Latrobe, and through the region, right”.

He said the Regional Growth Strategy, and its Integrated Land Use Plan, would “feed into” the process so that “development happens in areas that are appropriate and can be balanced with the ongoing, sustainable use of the resource, for our economy”.

Environment Victoria has criticised moves to allocate new reserves, claiming a similar allocation process in 2002 by the previous State Government had “completely failed to generate any new jobs or investment for Victoria and instead created windfall profits for private companies”.

Companies wishing to participate in the market engagement process can register their interest by emailing sdlvc@dbi.vic.gov.au