Morwell’s Lurgi site presents ‘astronomical’ opportunity

A COLOSSAL industrial park along Morwell’s Tramway Road could become a research and development hub for diversified timber products and electricity generation, if one of Latrobe City Council’s employment visions eventuate.

Latrobe City deputy mayor Dale Harriman has also flagged the possibility of a coal to oil production facility as a potential occupier at the former Lurgi site, for which a $5 million revamp in joint government funding was announced on Friday.

With only a handful of vacant ‘Industrial 2 Zone’ sites in the country, Mr Harriman said the revamp of the 68 hectare estate would convert it into an industrial drawcard for the region.

“The potentials for employment and investment are astronomical… the opportunity for the Valley is astronomical,” Mr Harriman said.

According to the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure, the Industrial 2 Zone can cater for the manufacturing industry, the storage and distribution of goods and associated facilities.

Mr Harriman said the site would prove an ideal location for diversified timber industries such as development of wood resin and cross laminated timber products, as outlined in council’s Wood Encouragement Policy.

Speaking on Friday in a vast on-site warehouse with 10-metre high ceilings to a cluster of satisfied-looking bureaucrats, Mr Harriman welcomed the hard-fought agreement between council and the State Government to revamp the site.

The agreement ends a long-standing dispute between council and the state over ultimate responsibility for the site’s dilapidated roads, with council to handle the precinct’s ongoing road maintenance.

“People don’t realise the behind-the-scenes work that’s gone on here – there’s been a lot of headaches, it’s been ongoing for quite some time,” Mr Harriman said.

To be completed over three stages, the revamp will see localised road reconstructions, followed by drainage upgrades and the development of a water treatment pond – with works expected to be completed by mid-2016.

With sale of the Crown-owned site currently on hold, the estate will go back on the market upon the work’s completion.

The State Government has been bullish about the estate’s employment generation capacity, flagging the potential for 470 full-time jobs, 800 construction jobs, and flow on employment.

However this would depend on the site’s successful sale and subsequent use.

Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said Morwell’s ability to attract new forms of heavy industry had been hampered by a lack of suitable land, adding there had been “a lot of interest” in the site.

Member for Morwell Russell Northe said he was pleased the governments were able “to get this thing over the line”.

“There have been many discussions over a long period of time, but we’ve gotten over who owns what … and I’m thrilled we are finally just about there,” Mr Northe said.

Partly occupied by Carter Holt Harvey, O’Connors Transport and DiFabrizio Steel Fabrications, the site’s dilapidated state has caused ongoing grief for the current tenants.

Carter Holt Harvey Morwell facility manager Brian Murphy said about 60 trucks cross the estate’s crumbling roads every day.

“We have 60 trucks per day using this site; we’ve had a number of significant injuries from people hitting potholes, so from our point of view to get this place fixed is a major bonus,” Mr Murphy said.

“This will get our boys home safe every day, on behalf of the other businesses we’d like to thank the (government) partnership.”