Regional outlook bright: Elkington

Regional Development Australia Gippsland chair Richard Elkington says the Latrobe Valley is in “safe hands” with a “bright future” on the horizon despite a number of economic and social setbacks in the past 18 months.

Government and private enterprise investment across the region in the last year has “shown serious confidence” according to Mr Elkington, who has lived in Gippsland his entire life.

He said despite the closure of Hazelwood Power Station and Carter Holt Harvey sawmill, the Latrobe Valley has a “bright future” despite all negative reports the region has received in recent times.

“If you look at the Latrobe Valley as a whole I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Mr Elkington told The Express.

“Hazelwood’s closure isn’t all black and white. We’ve had significant investment in a whole range of activities.

“If you view Latrobe Valley just through a prism of future investment in power generation from brown coal, you might have a negative view. But if you look at the total picture of what’s occurring – the community, its leadership and government have worked together to produce a good result.”

RDA Gippsland is a regionally-based Australian government initiative which aims to facilitate regional thought leadership to ensure sustainable economic and social growth for Gippsland, with committee members coming from across the region.

Mr Elkington said recent investments from private enterprises such as Fujitsu’s in the Morwell High Tech Precinct and Alinta Energy’s purchase of Loy Yang B Power Station showed there was much to be hopeful of across the Valley.

“We’re aware of Fujitsu’s investment in the High-Tech Precinct, we’re aware of a government hub being established in the Latrobe Valley, we’re aware of the High Tech Precinct itself being committed to and built, Greenham’s [abattoir] have made a major investment [at Moe] and Alinta Energy with the recent sale of Loy Yang B,” Mr Elkington said.

A feasibility study into a low emissions high efficient power station would be a “sensible approach” to Mr Elkington who has discussed the matter at a number of trade missions, including at Canberra last year.

“It might establish once and for all whether such a power station would be commercial[ly viable], what are the showstoppers – if there were any – what risks would be associated and where might the investment come from,” he said.