Town liveability a priority: council

Latrobe City Council has called on the State Government to reconsider coal mining between Traralgon and Morwell following the adverse impact of the Hazelwood mine fire.

Council adopted its submission to the Hazelwood Mine Fire Board of Inquiry at Monday’s special meeting after amending it to include a point focusing on future liveability, following public input during a meeting last Thursday.

Council asked “the long term liveability of the towns of Latrobe Valley, particularly Morwell, be considered as the priority when planning, remediating and designing existing and future coal mines”.

“There are areas within Latrobe City that have previously been identified as potential operating brown coal mines that should be reconsidered following this fire event. This includes the area west of Traralgon known as Area H,” the document read.

“They should be reconsidered as they do not currently prioritise the liveability of the towns of Latrobe Valley.”

“The creation of a new coal mining pit in Area H west of Traralgon or on the land west of Morwell, would create significant dust and noise issues for those towns, not to mention smoke and ash issues in the event of the fire.”

Latrobe City mayor Sharon Gibson said it was important to balance the needs of the power generation industry – “the backbone of this community for decades” – and the residents’ wellbeing, but liveability must be a priority.

Energy and Mining Minister Russell Northe explained Area H was land originally set aside for residential development and a highway bypass, but the previous Labor government then reassessed and instead set it aside for coal mining.

“I’m certainly aware of previous conversations with council who would like to revisit this particular area and I have indicated in my short time as minister my desire to consider a number of parcels of land that currently have coal overlays upon them – that could be utilised for other forms of development and not necessarily coal development,” Mr Northe said.

He said he would seek more information from his department about these areas of land in Latrobe Valley, but was not suggesting there would be a total review.

Mr Northe said the Hazelwood open cut’s proximity to Morwell was the result of bad planning and would not be repeated.

“If we had a blank canvas today there’s no way now you would be building… a coal mine that close to a township – it wouldn’t be allowed under current regulations anyway.”