State defends Warragul spending

STATE Industry and Employment Minister Wade Noonan has defended a decision to a grant from a $10 million Hazelwood transition fund on the expansion of a Warragul hydroponic tomato facility, despite it being located outside Latrobe City.

Mr Noonan announced the expansion yesterday during a visit to the region, which will create 12 construction jobs and 33 ongoing positions at Flavorite Tomatoes.

The company is investing $11.5 million in the upgrade but the government has not disclosed the grant amount as it is commercial in confidence.

“Indeed the way the State Government views this region is a region across Baw Baw, Latrobe City and Wellington,” he said when questioned about the government’s decision to fund a project outside the Latrobe Valley.

“We look at any opportunity to grow jobs in the region – it would be silly for us essentially to turn our back on the opportunity to grow the economy and diversify the economy.”

The announcement follows the Federal Government’s recent decision to spend $4 million from its Hazelwood transition package to fund the redevelopment of Warragul’s West Gippsland Arts Centre.

But Mr Noonan said the State Government’s biggest announcement since ENGIE announced Hazelwood’s closure was the $17 million high tech precinct planned for Morwell.

“This is the type of project that will bring diversification to the economy by bringing partners together like Federation University, Federation Training and Fujitsu, a global company, as an anchor tenant,” he said.

“This is the sort of precinct which will create hundreds of new jobs in the future and provide new pathways for those children who are looking at their future in the Latrobe Valley who want to see every opportunity for them.”