Funding blitz greets Hazelwood closure

The state and federal governments have rushed to unveil support packages for the Latrobe Valley after it was announced Hazelwood power station and mine will close in March next year.

Workers were told this morning the station would close on 31 March, resulting in 450 direct employees and 300 contractors losing their jobs.

Station owner Engie also surprised workers with news it would appoint a financial advisor to oversee the sale of its other Latrobe Valley power station, Loy Yang B.

Following the announcement Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews visited Morwell where he announced a $22 million support package for workers and families affected by the announcement.

The package included funding for a worker transition centre to be established in Morwell in partnership with the Gippsland Trade and Labour Council and tailored support for businesses to help them identify new opportunities and develop a transition plan.

It also included education, counselling, financial advice and subsidised job seeker training for workers in transition and an expansion of the Back to Work program to businesses that employ workers in the region.

“Today is a very difficult day for 750 workers and their families who have learnt they will lose their jobs at the end of March next year,” Mr Andrews said.

“Our consolidated effort, our joint effort with the Federal Government in this early stage, is to support them with the training, skills, counselling and financial advice that they need.”

The premier also used the visit to announce a further $20 million to establish the Latrobe Valley Authority.

The authority’s website said the new body will “bring together local people, councils, industry, education providers and governments to secure the economic future of the Latrobe Valley”.

Following the announcement the Federal Government announced it would provide $43 million to help the region adjust to the closure of Hazelwood.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said in a statement the funding included $3 million in employment support for Hazelwood workers, a $20 million Regional Jobs and Investment Package for small to medium businesses and a $20 million regional jobs and infrastructure fund.

Workers who have lost their jobs as a result of the decision will receive a redundancy package worth on average $330,000, plus their entitlements. 

Job losses caused by the closure of Hazelwood will be offset by the creation of 250 positions to oversee the rehabilitation of the power station and mine site between 2017 and 2023. 

Engie chief executive in Australia Alex Keisser visited the region today for the announcement and estimated it would take 12 years to convert the mine into a lake.

“So what we intend to do is work with a regulator and the community in order to do exactly that, which is to transform the mine into an element that can be given back to the community,” Mr Keisser said.