Mine Fire Inquiry report delayed

A report identifying ways to improve the Latrobe Valley community’s health as part of the reopened Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry won’t be delivered until next year.

The report was due to be delivered to the Governor of Victoria on 2 December, but has been delayed until 29 January after the Board of Inquiry sought an extension.

“The Board wished to ensure that all the information presented at the forums was reviewed and considered appropriately and with over 70 people confirming their attendance in the lead-up to the forums… the Board sought an extension to the original delivery date of 2 December to ensure it could meet its obligation effectively,” a statement released on Tuesday read.

The forums ran in September and October with various people from government, the community and health sector sharing their thoughts and ideas with the Board.

Morwell and District Community Recovery Committee chair Carolyne Boothman said she was disappointed by the delay, but understood the Board’s decision.

“Obviously the longer it takes to be released the longer it takes to be acted upon,” Ms Boothman said.

“But we certainly understand it needs to be done thoroughly and in detail.”

Ms Boothman said she had been “very impressed” with the team running the inquiry.

“They’ve listened very carefully and very intently to what we’ve recommended.

“I find them very approachable and keen to listen to the locals.”

As well as looking into possible ways to improve the health of the Latrobe Valley, the reopened mine fire inquiry is examining whether there was an increase in the rates of death in the Valley as the result of the 2014 disaster, and mine rehabilitation options for the region’s three coal mines.

It also looked at options to decrease the risk of fire arising from or impacting the Anglesea mine for the 2015/16 fire season, with a report tabled in Parliament on 2 September.

Public hearings into Latrobe Valley mine rehabilitation will be conducted from 8 to 11 December at the Latrobe Performing Arts Centre and on 17 December and Kernot Hall.

The report for this portion of the inquiry is scheduled to be delivered on 15 March 2016, while the report about whether the fire contributed to an increase in deaths in the Valley will still be delivered on 2 December.

The extension for the health improvement report was approved as a variation to the terms of reference by the Governor in Council.