After much deliberation amid fear of inadequate community consultation, Latrobe City councillors voted to support the demolition of Morwell Power Station at an ordinary meeting on Tuesday.
It came after site liquidator Energy Brix Australia Corporation made an application to have the power station demolished so Coal Energy Australia could move forward with plans to establish a project that would reinstate the briquette factory facilities to utilise brown coal to create new products, known as the CarbonTech project.
Heritage Victoria advised council of the demolition application on March 23 and council was given 14 days to respond, which will expire this Friday.
Council officers prepared a letter to Heritage Victoria, dated March 27, which supported the demolition of the power station and councillors were asked to endorse the letter at the meeting.
However, The Express understands councillors were only informed they would be asked to endorse the letter on the day of the meeting and, as a result, Cr Sharon Gibson abstained from voting, stating she could not make an informed decision due to the lack of notice and community consultation on the issue.
Cr Gibson suggested a special council meeting be held on Thursday night to allow more time for community feedback and for councillors to consider the matter, however, councillors voted to endorse the letter anyway.
Cr Kellie O’Callaghan also expressed concerns councillors had not had enough time to consult the community or to furnish further questions on the matter.
“It puts us in a difficult position,” she said to the meeting.
“The organisation didn’t go to extended lengths to inform the community.”
Cr Graeme Middlemiss said he was “impaled on the fence on this one”, but was also of the opinion that “CEA may create more jobs on the assumption that the power station will be demolished”.
“Now we have a situation where someone is saying ‘we will bring jobs … so I am caught,” he said.
EBAC remediation general manager Barry Dungey was pleased with council’s decision, describing it as “common sense”.
However heritage proponent Cheryl Wragg described the position outlined by council’s letter to Heritage Victoria as “short-term thinking [that is] responsible for producing long-term employment”.
“The decision developed by council administration and put to councillors … was not made aware to the public beforehand, nor do I understand councillors were made aware beforehand,” she said.
“So council officers have made a decision and prepared a response before Heritage Victoria has even publicly advertised the site owner’s application.
“The Morwell Power Station and Briquette Factory decision offers a clear choice; we can have yet another empty, wind-swept contaminated paddock, like the one over at the Yallourn Power Station site, with not a job on the horizon, and no jobs to ever be created at that site or we can have at Morwell, an extraordinary industrial heritage display that boasts the achievement of the Latrobe Valley community, and assists in the ventures of new jobs and new opportunities into the future.”