Investment opportunities beckon for the Valley

The head of the peak body representing Gippsland’s business, community and industry groups has called for major infrastructure projects to be brought forward to offset the job losses caused by the closure of Hazelwood.

Committee for Gippsland chief executive Mary Aldred yesterday identified the Traralgon-Sale Princes Highway duplication and a Traralgon bypass as projects which could provide short-term jobs while making the region more attractive to potential investors.

“We think that as part of a transparent response that government needs to be prepared to invest in an immediate pipeline of infrastructure projects for the region,” Ms Aldred said.

“Those sorts of things that double as an economic stimulus and a creator of jobs that will provide infrastructure and productivity benefits.”

Four stages of the Princes Highway duplication have been completed with two more stages underway.

The state and federal governments each provided funding for additional stages of the project this year in their respective budgets.

The Traralgon bypass project was included in a list of Gippsland funding priorities submitted to the State Government ahead of the 2015/16 budget.

A bypass route was approved by then-State Planning Minister Justin Madden in June 2009.

However, the Traralgon Chamber of Commerce has previously expressed fears bypassing the town would impact local businesses.

Advance Morwell chair John Guy said it was important new investment was attracted to the region, which could capitalise on the skills of the existing workforce.

“It’s essential that they capitalise on the current skills we’ve got,” Mr Guy said.

“We said this back in the time of privatisation, that there’s a lot of skills around that could be used and a lot of those skills have now been lost because of retirements.”

He also expressed support for the State Government’s $40 million Latrobe Valley Economic Development Program, which was recently used to provide funding for the expansion of Trafalgar’s Victoria Valley Meat Exports.

But Mr Guy said he would prefer to see the money spent “centrally in the Latrobe Valley”.

Voices of the Valley president Wendy Farmer said it was important the community was involved in shaping the transition and echoed Mr Guy’s sentiments about the importance of taking advantage of existing skills.

“We’ve got a good skills base, but give us the opportunity, give us the facilities to use it,” Mrs Farmer said.