Latrobe City Council’s advocacy role

Support packages for workers and businesses should be deployed immediately, and a bipartisan committee must be established to map out a 10-year transition plan.

These are the priorities Latrobe City Council chief executive Gary Van Driel is pushing for, following the commitments of hundreds of millions of state and federal dollars.

“We’ve been advocating around what we believe should be supported in the packages, but we’ve not been directly engaged in the form of what was announced,” Mr Van Driel said on Friday morning.

“We still see the need for the establishment of a bipartisan working group or committee and we see the need to map out the transition plan across a longer time period of 10-plus years.”

Mr Van Driel told The Express one of the first tasks for the newly-elected councillors would be to sign off on advocacy around transition.

The councillors met with Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday to better understand the State Government’s support packages and “how that will play out over time”.

Although council appeared to have little involvement in the funding’s detail, Mr Van Driel appeared positive about the Latrobe Valley’s future.

“There is obviously some very positive commentary around the help and support for the Valley,” Mr Van Driel said.

“Not just with the Hazelwood closure, but the broader context of supporting the region, because of the high unemployment rates and those significant socio-demographic indicators around family violence and the like.

“I see a broader commitment from the government to help the Latrobe Valley move to a brighter future.” 

When asked whether government support should have arrived sooner than Hazelwood’s confirmed closure, Mr Van Driel pointed to previous funding that had already begun rolling forward.

“There was $50-odd-million provided following the various recommendations from the mine fire inquiry, so the health zone and the technical tasks around… rehabilitation, some opportunities for education – a lot of that was just starting to build momentum,” he said. 

“I think it was definitely acknowledged in government there was support needed for the community.”

The State Government has injected $266 million into the Latrobe Valley’s economy following Engie’s announcement.

Its newly-established $20 million Latrobe Valley Authority would consider projects under a $50 million ‘Economic Growth Zone’, set to cover Latrobe City as well as the Baw Baw and Wellington shires.

Mr Van Driel said the community’s voice needed to be heard throughout the process, and he imagined the ‘authority’ would be involved in that engagement.