Push to revive Latrobe Valley committee

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A Latrobe Valley bureaucrat wants to revive a dormant committee to drive the region’s economic transition.

Regional Development Australia Gippsland chair Richard Elkington wants to re-establish the Latrobe Valley Transition Committee as a representative body to government and point of contact as part of the state’s ‘transition plan’.

He said the committee was established in 2011 as a joint state and federal initiative in the wake of federal carbon reduction legislation and included representatives from local government, unions and Monash University, but it was folded into RDA in 2014.

“Its function was to recommend to government what support would be necessary to ensure the transformation of the Latrobe Valley economy in a carbon constrained world,” Mr Elkington said.

He said he would like to see the committee coordinated from a federal and state level “with strong local ownership” and made up of representatives from local government, the health and welfare sector, education, trade unions, Regional Development Australia, Regional Development Victoria, power stations and representatives from a range of other industries and the community.

Mr Elkington said work had already been done at a bureaucratic level to understand the region’s “current state”, citing a number of plans and documents.

“We could have done better with bringing the community on the journey,” he said.

He said he envisioned the revived committee would examine the economic and social impact of the re-shaping of the regional economy and what the region needed from government to “get where we want to be”.

“RDA has decided to reconvene the old committee as a starting point for the new committee and new process,” Mr Elkington said.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said any moves to re-formalise a community consultation committee should be welcomed.

“It would be critical that all major industries in the Latrobe Valley, including manufacturing and health, and the wider community were part of the conversation,” Mr Chester said.

State Member for Morwell Russell Northe said there was “certainly” the need for engagement of business, community and industry, particularly with the Latrobe Valley’s larger employers.

He said he was committed to bipartisanship on the issue.

Latrobe City chief executive Gary Van Driel said re-establishing players around the table was a positive step forward, but there would need to be a formal resolution of council to consider its position in relation to that.

State Industry, Energy and Resources Minister Lily D’Ambrosio did not respond to questions about whether the government would support the re-establishment of the Latrobe Valley Transition Committee.