Gippsland’s ‘powerful economic weapons’

STATE Planning Minister Matthew Guy has forecast “huge opportunities” for Latrobe Valley’s economic future following the release of a key metropolitan planning strategy this week.

In its Plan Melbourne document, the State Government committed to investigating options for a third Victorian airport to be located in Cardinia Shire – a move Mr Guy told The Express would “open up Gippsland to a huge level of employment opportunities and residential growth.”

“People would be able to live and work in the Valley and have good jobs in and around an airport that’s within 40 minutes drive to their own residence,” he said.

Mr Guy said an airport to the south-east of Melbourne would serve one-third of the state’s population, including Gippsland’s 300,000 residents.

He said Cardinia Shire had “worked very hard to identify two potential sites” for the airport and, while it was a long-term vision which might not be realised for 20 years, early expressions of interest from potential private partners in East Asia could see things fast-tracked.

Government support for the airport concept, coupled with work already underway to develop the Port of Hastings, would “activate south-east and western Gippsland in a way that hasn’t been done before,” the minister said.

The two initiatives would serve as “very, very powerful economic weapons.”

Committee for Gippsland president Mary Aldred welcomed government support for the airport as a “major win for this region”, saying C4G had been “pushing hard for it all year”.

“We would hope now if the Victorian Government has settled on a strategic location they would consider fast-tracking it as quickly as possible, in terms of planning and other processes that need to be undertaken,” she said.

Referring to another report just released by accounting firm Deloitte, which predicted Victoria’s agricultural, education and resource sectors were best positioned to meet the demand of a growing Asian middle class in future decades, Ms Aldred said “without a doubt” a new airport would “further our capacity” to benefit from that growth.

“If we can put our case as being well-connected, that really advantages us,” she said, adding “the quicker we can get this off the ground, the quicker we can start leveraging these opportunities across education export, the dairy industry and other industries in the Latrobe Valley.”

A further part of the Plan Melbourne strategy designated the Warragul-Drouin area as “a new major population and employment town for growth”.

Mr Guy said he expected over time that growth would “naturally flow” to towns outside of Warragul-Drouin, particularly Moe.

“I think the Latrobe Valley, more than any other region in Victoria, is well placed to manage both population and employment growth,” he said.

“It has a transport spine running down the middle, good road and rail, the Traralgon airport is doing very well and it is very well strategically placed with the Port of Hasting and a possible third airport.”