Heritage endorsed

The old Morwell power station and briquette factory are a step closer to becoming permanent fixtures after Heritage Victoria recommended their preservation.

In a report released on Friday, Heritage Victoria recommended the two facilities, located on the Energy Brix site at Commercial Road, Morwell, be added to the Victorian Heritage Register.

The community will now have 60 days to make submissions in favour or against the preservation of the site.

The two facilities had been slated for demolition until March, when a temporary protection order was granted following an application from Moe resident and community activist Cheryl Wragg to have the site’s heritage value assessed.

On Friday, Ms Wragg described the report’s recommendation as a “really good decision”.

“It’s wonderful to see the Morwell power station and briquette factory, the cultural heritage of that facility, made clear so everyone in the community can see why it needs to be heritage listed and what the significance of that facility is,” she said.

Ms Wragg said the decision meant the region now had an opportunity to make the site part of a “tourism industry in the Latrobe Valley to create jobs, to lift the profile of the whole region and to really fly the flag proudly about what was achieved here”.

Proponents of the site’s preservation would like to see it form part of a historical and cultural tourism precinct in the Valley, modelled on Germany’s Ruhr Valley industrial heartland.

While the report recommends the briquette factory and power station be preserved, it found surrounding land, including the Power Works museum site, not be added to the register.

The report found the power station and briquette factory, built between 1949 and 1959, satisfied three criteria for heritage registration.

“The Morwell Power Station and Briquette Factories is historically significant as the centrepiece of the Victorian Government’s post-WWII strategy to revitalise Victoria’s economic growth through the development of the Latrobe Valley into the state’s principal power and energy producing region,” the report stated.

“With the demolition of Old Yallourn (power station) between 1995 and 1999, Morwell is now the earliest surviving large-scale power station designed to provide electricity to the state electricity network.”

The report also noted that the site was “rare for containing the only remaining, intact assemblage of briquetting machinery from the mid-twentieth century in Victoria”.

The Morwell power station and briquette factory had a total generating capacity of 120 megawatts before it closed in 2012.

Production continued at the briquette factory until 2014, when it closed resulting in 70 job losses.

In April, the liquidator for Energy Brix Australia, PPB Advisory revealed the site cost about $80,000 a month to maintain in its current state.

In a statement released on Friday, Latrobe City Council said it would ensure the power station and briquette factory did not “become a burden on the community, whatever the outcome from the Heritage Victoria recommendations”.

“It will also advocate that all issues around asbestos management and contaminants are resolved to the satisfaction of the community,” mayor Kellie O’Callaghan said.

“It is imperative that the cost of maintaining this asset is never borne by our ratepayers.

“Nor should they be left with an abandoned decaying industrial site.”

Advance Morwell’s John Guy, who has been critical of moves to have the site heritage listed, said he understood he had 60 days to make a submission to Heritage Victoria.

“We’ll be looking at that and probably formulating a submission to Heritage Victoria,” Mr Guy said.

Submissions can be made by email to heritage.council@delwp.com.au before 5pm on Monday, 24 July.