Let’s make a deal

The Latrobe Valley might be the first regional city in Victoria to become a part of a program that has delivered millions to a sports stadium and rail corridor in Townsville.

At last week’s COAG meeting, Premier Daniel Andrews lobbied the Valley as the next location for the Federal Government’s ‘City Deal’ program.

The Federal Government has entered into partnerships in Townsville, Western Sydney and Launceston, but has yet to reach an agreement in Victoria. In Townsville $100 million was put towards a sports stadium and $150 million for a rail corridor. In Western Sydney investment was put towards new public transport and a program for high unemployment.

The Federal Government has so far assured regional cities will be expressly included in partnership and cover more than just capital cities.

“If a City Deal is good enough for Western Sydney or Townsville, it’s good enough for the Latrobe Valley. This is about jobs and ensuring the Valley gets the future it deserves,” Mr Andrews said.

The lobbying efforts will be made in partnership with Latrobe City Council, and hopes to provide further support to the region since energy operator Engie announced it would close the Hazelwood power station and mine on 31 March.

Latrobe City mayor Kellie O’Callaghan said council welcomed the call to be the first Victorian region to be included in the City Deal program.

“We believe Latrobe City is strongly positioned for a City Deal from the Commonwealth when the funding applications process opens early next year,” Cr O’Callaghan said.

She said council had visited Canberra three times in recent months to discuss the program with government, including a meeting with Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor, as well as a City Deals forum facilitated by the Regional Australian Institute. “Council will shortly be seeking the State Government to sign a memorandum of understanding to enable Latrobe City’s work of preparing for a deal to move as quickly as possible,” Cr O’Callaghan said.

She said the program would also build upon the council’s transition plan.

A spokesperson for the Premier said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was consulted about the merits of the Latrobe Valley to become the next ‘City Deal’ location at the COAG meeting.

“This would complement the work we are doing to attract new jobs through financial incentives, support with planning applications and reductions in state imposed duties such as stamp duty,” the spokesperson added in reference to the State Government’s $50 million Economic Growth Zone.

The Andrews Government has contributed $266 million to the Latrobe Valley’s “transition” in response to the looming Hazelwood closure.