The State Government appointed professor Rae Mackay as the first Latrobe Valley Mine Rehabilitation Commissioner on Friday.
This appointment comes after the Hazelwood mine fire enquiry recommended the role be created to fill significant gaps in technical understanding regarding mine rehabilitation.
The commissioner will provide independent advice to the government on mine rehabilitation, oversee rehabilitation planning and assist in developing the Latrobe Valley Regional Rehabilitation Strategy.
A Latrobe Valley resident, Professor Mackay has more than three decades of experience as an engineer, hydro-geologist and academic, most recently serving as the director of Federation University’s Geotechnical and Hydrogeological Engineering Research Group.
Professor Mackay said he hoped his role would impact the community in a positive way.
“My goal is to encourage the community to think strongly about activities that are going on, to look at future economic and central development, taking into account the rehabilitation activities that will stretch into the future,” he said.
“I hope to get the community to be fully aware and fully engaged and to appreciate what is happening and why it is happening.”
Professor Mackay said fire rehabilitation was only one element to his role.
“The major requirement is to actually end up where they are set up (so the mine) is actually safe, stable and delivering positive results in terms of land and water use into the economy and social wellbeing of the community,” he said.
“We need to have a vision by 2020, so the next three years will be a very important period in the development and planning processes.”
Professor Mackay moved to the Latrobe Valley six years ago with his wife and said he was looking forward to the “wonderful activity” of being part of and working with the community.
“I think the important thing to realise is the community is one part of a team of stakeholders and that they all have things to contribute. The mines and government and we the community have contributions to make and bringing it all together is going to be very worthwhile and contribute to the economic prosperity of the Valley,” he said.
While in Churchill on Friday, State Resources Minister Wade Noonan said professor Mackay was a “terrific appointment” with an “impeccable academic background”.
“He brings technical expertise to the role, which is very important because it is a highly technical area, and he also has the important role to liaise with stakeholders and engage and bring along the community,” he said.
“I am confident he can do that and do that well.”
Latrobe City mayor Kellie O’Callaghan said the appointment of the commissioner is “one large step forward to placing the community at the heart of any rehabilitation efforts”.
“Balancing the technical, the practical, the tolerable with the wishes, hopes and expectations of the community will be demanding but I have every confidence that Rae is the right fit for this important task,” Cr O’Callaghan said.
“I look forward to building on our existing working relationship and am determined that together we will work to secure the voice of our community in the outcomes of the mine rehabilitation and State Government decision-making process.
“We must never again tolerate a culture where people not of this place tell us what’s good for us.”