Hazelwood heritage protection bid

Heritage Victoria will assess the cultural heritage value of Hazelwood Power Station after Moe resident Cheryl Wragg applied for the site to be listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

Ms Wragg has applied for the for partial conservation of the plant, which would include one whole stage, the turbine halls and chimneys.

“This would allow for three of the boiler stages to be demolished while retaining the most culturally important aspects of Hazelwood,” she said.

“For example the SECV was actively considering going nuclear during the 1950’s and was closely watching the development of atomic energy in the United Kingdon and the United States. It made the conscious decision to build Hazelwood Power Station instead of taking Australia down the nuclear path.”

Ms Wragg said while people may take issue with the cost of heritage listing, there was an “even more significant” cost in destroying the site, being demolition costs and “lost opportunity costs”.

“It’s really important we don’t allow our industrial identity to be destroyed… it’s not about mothballing, it is about retaining, conserving, re-purposing and re-using these facilities,” she said.

“You can’t develop an industrial heritage trail of global interest that will attract international visitors unless you retain some of your industrial heritage.”

“People won’t pay to see an empty paddock. They will pay to see industrial infrastructure that is cleaned up, made safe and is presented in interesting and accessible ways to the public.”

The application follows Ms Wragg’s bid to have the former Morwell power station and briquette factory heritage listed earlier this year.

Following an assessment, Heritage Victoria’s executive director recommended the Morwell power station and briquette factory be preserved, with registration hearings scheduled to begin on Thursday, 12 October.

The site had previously been slated for demolition.

Latrobe City mayor Kellie O’Callaghan said council was not a party to the application.

“The proponents have not sought nor secured the support of council. I’m not aware if they have sought or secured the support of the community,” Cr O’Callaghan said.

“While the consideration of this asset will be on its historical merit, council will be seeking assurance from the state government that this asset will not become a burden on the community.”

She urged Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery to reconsider the process and to undertake “broad, meaningful community engagement” prior to receiving public submissions.

“This is an important decision – it is worthy of a generous conversation with the community, not a cold and clinical exchange of paper,” she 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.”

A Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning spokesperson said the nomination of Hazelwood Power Station for the Victorian Heritage Register would be assessed by heritage experts and considered on its merits.

“The former operator of the site has also engaged a heritage consultant to identify items of heritage value and will work with Heritage Victoria, the Latrobe City Council and the community on how to best acknowledge Hazelwood’s contribution to the local community and the state,” they said.

Asbestos Council of Victoria/GARDS chief executive Vicki Hamilton said the power station was “riddled” with asbestos and that even with asbestos removal, the power station may not be safe for use by the public.

“Having [the power station] heritage listed is just ridiculous. Have the bits and pieces taken out and put in a museum or in PowerWorks, safely remove them from the power station, but even that I’d question,” she said.

“You’d have to make sure that the piece of machinery was clean completely.”

Ms Hamilton said many people in the Latrobe Valley had died from asbestos-related diseases, “compliments of the power stations”.

“It is a terrible reminder for some people,” she said.

“To open it up to the general public would be ludicrous.”