Council says state must pay to maintain listed sites

The decision to heritage-list the Morwell Power Station and briquette factory was made by a state agency and responsibility for the site should now lie with the state, Latrobe City mayor Darrell White says.

“It is imperative that the cost of maintaining this asset is never borne by our ratepayers. Council’s overwhelming concerns are that the site won’t be maintained to an appropriate level,” he said.

“It is council’s role to hold those to account who are responsible for managing these sites.

“Latrobe City council is working to understand the implications, both social and financial, of this decision by the Heritage Council.”

Councillors resolved last July not to object to the heritage listing of Morwell Power Station and briquette factory, providing appropriate funding was secured so the buildings and surrounds could be maintained in a safe condition and re-tasked for public use.

“Latrobe City is keen to see this site reactivated so that it becomes a useful asset as opposed to an abandoned industrial site,” Cr White said.

In its submission to the Victorian Heritage Council, Latrobe City council recognised the cultural significance of the site, however, expressed concerns regarding potential impacts on council resources and ratepayers should a demolition permit be denied and the site left derelict.

Advance Morwell president John Guy said he hoped “common sense would prevail” and that the power station would be dismantled.

“If it continues as the finding of the Heritage Council at the moment, I believe the cost will be in the millions. That will have to come from government at some stage,” he said.

“I certainly don’t think it will come from our community, our council. They said they would not be involved in any financing of the factory and power station.”

Mr Guy said Coal Energy Australia’s potential CarbonTech project would benefit the region in terms of jobs.

“Well, in terms of trying to provide a fair amount of employment, this is probably the only [option] that is on the horizon to provide long-term employment [in the region] at the moment,” he said.

Advance Morwell supported the heritage listing with the provision that demolition could proceed and the site be repurposed for another industry, that asbestos material be removed and contained on the site and all efforts were made to record the history of the power station and briquette factory using modern, archiving principals and techniques.

Mr Guy said heritage proponent Cheryl Wragg had done a “fantastic job” researching the history of the site, however, he was not convinced her vision of an industrial heritage tourism industry in the Latrobe Valley was realistic.

“Look at the experience of … Powerworks. [It] has not been largely successful,” he said.

“Apart from that, you have the asbestos problem … it wouldn’t be suitable for people to go through, anyhow.”

Mr Guy said it appeared a large percentage of the community would like to see the power station and factory dismantled and the history recorded in another way.

“[Energy Brix Australia Corporation] have already committed to doing a 3D film of the plant, so people could view 3D images and be inside the power station,” he said.

“There is so much of that technology available now that you can record history with.”