Decision ‘influenced’

Heidi Kraak

A heritage proponent has criticised Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s decision not to list Hazelwood Power Station on the Victorian Heritage Register, stating it was “not the experts” who made the decision.

The comments come after the Minister told The Express last week the power station would not be listed, despite the Heritage Council recommending earlier in the month that it should be included.

Heritage proponent Cheryl Wragg said the Heritage Council were the experts and had “found Hazelwood to be worthy of listing”.

“The Heritage Council of Victoria found that Hazelwood Power Station should be listed, the Heritage Council of Victoria is the heritage site specialist body of Victoria. These are the experts,” she said.

“Minster Richard Wynne has ignored and stopped the Heritage Council of Victoria from being heard on this matter and it is his decision that has resulted in Hazelwood not being listed, not the experts.”

Ms Wragg said it was “deeply concerning” the minister had “been influenced by some loud voices in the Latrobe Valley advocating demolition instead of conservation”.

“One of those voices that many people are aware of although the minster’s office was not specific about the voices, is the Asbestos Council of Victoria, GARDS,” she said.

“It is deeply concerning that Ms Hamilton, is promoting a view that is contrary to the Occupational Health and Safety Act which requires sites to be decontaminated before they are demolished.

“I am referring specifically to Ms Hamilton’s comments as reported in the Latrobe Valley Express and as presented to the Heritage Council in October last year. You ‘cannot decontaminate a power station’. In fact, these sites must be decontaminated before they are demolished and that was that window of opportunity to decontaminate and then conserve which brought me to nominate them in the first place.”

Asbestos Council of Victoria/GARDS chief executive Vicki Hamilton said there was a difference between the removal of asbestos for demolition and the removal of asbestos “for a museum”.

Ms Hamilton denied she influenced the minister “any more than what Ms Wragg would have with her letters and submissions” and said “you cannot decontaminate a power station that has had thousands of tonnes of friable asbestos used in it”. “My choice of words about decontamination was referring to how [Ms Wragg] wants to use the place as a museum and have people walk through it,” she said.

“I sent my letters from the people that I represent and they have a strong view.”

Latrobe City Council general manager city development Gail Gatt said council would “need to consider carefully the impacts” on the planning minister’s decision not to include Hazelwood’s eight chimneys on the Victorian Heritage Register.

“Council respects the decision made by the Minister for Planning. However, we have been advocating for the site to be used for a number of land uses that would benefit the community,” she said. “Council endorsed the submission to the Heritage Council of Victoria requesting the chimney stacks be included on the Heritage Register, as it was considered that retention of the stacks would not detract from the overall vision of the future rehabilitation of the site.

“Council also made it clear in its submission, that it is not in a financial position to take over the management of the chimney stacks should they be retained.”

A previous version of this story contained a quote suggesting Ms Wragg had lobbied Mr Wynne about the matter. That is not the case and the story has been updated to reflect that.