Change is coming to Morwell

Morwell’s Kitwood family has seen a lot of change over the years, but the Hazelwood power station and mine have been among the constants in their lives.

From their home on Wallace Street, it is easy to glimpse the power station.

The Princes Freeway is the only thing that separates their property from the mine. Mike Kitwood, a former Hazelwood worker, has lived in the home with his wife, Dot, for 36 years.

In that time they have witnessed the privatisation of the industry, the closure of the Princes Freeway for six months due to slippage in the mine and the catastrophic Hazelwood mine fire.

And they will be there when the station and mine close on 31 March next year. Mr Kitwood said Thursday’s announcement the power plant would close took him by surprise.

“I was expecting a closure but not immediately in March,” Mr Kitwood said within hours of the announcement.

“I thought it might be a staged closure.” He does not expect the closure of the site to have the same devastating impact as privatisation had in the 1990s, but expects Morwell to be hit hard.

“Obviously job losses is the first thing and then of course that’ll affect the economy of the Valley, that’s for sure,” Mr Kitwood said.

“Young families will probably go elsewhere from the Valley.

“So it’ll be a big drop in the economy and local businesses are going to suffer.”

He said money provided by Hazelwood majority owner Engie as sponsorship to sporting and community groups would also be sucked out of the local economy.

Mr Kitwood’s son worked in maintenance at the site and now has to consider his options.

“He was saying he might have to go to Melbourne to look for work,” he said.

“There’s certainly a lot of other maintenance people around the place, so I can imagine a lot of people will leave the Valley.

“I know some people have already started getting their houses clean and ready for sale.”