Hazelwood Pondage petition gains traction

By Heidi Kraak

A petition calling on the state government to “explore every option available to it” to re-open Hazelwood pondage has garnered more than 2000 signatures in a matter of weeks.

Owner ENGIE closed the pondage in June last year and reduced the water levels after a report found the pondage walls had deteriorated significantly with age and no longer complied with national dam standards.

Member for Morwell Russell Northe will present the petition in Parliament later this month.

Petition instigator Don Duthie said the petition had “picked up quite a bit of steam” and many people were “not very happy” the community was “losing a valuable resource”.

The pondage closure, Mr Duthie said, had also left a program that provides sailing training for people with disabilities without a place to operate from.

“The pondage brings the towns together, it is where we all communicate with each other, socialise with each other, there are camp grounds and picnic grounds and all the water sports you could think of happen here,” he said.

“I’m just a resident who is not very happy about it being drained.”

He also welcomed ENGIE to attend one of the meetings to discuss what could be done to alleviate dam wall issues.

ENGIE has held a number of community consultation sessions in relation to Hazelwood pondage, and an ENGIE spokesman said ENGIE “has been, and remain[s] committed to open and timely communication with all stakeholders on the future of the pondage”.

Member for Morwell Russell Northe raised the issue of the pondage in Parliament earlier this year.

He believes the state government could “step in and hold those conversations with ENGIE with a view of taking over the pondage precinct”.

“I think it is obvious ENGIE are not interested in maintaining that body of water,” Mr Northe said.

“In an ideal world, in my view, we need the state government to step in.

“From my perspective, we need to find out whether it is possible to respond to the structural issues… to see if we could maintain Hazelwood pondage into the future.”

The petitioners will meet at Morwell Bowling Club every Thursday night at 7pm to discuss the issue and welcome other community members to join.

Latrobe City Council sent a letter to the Premier in January requesting the state government explore practical, long-term solutions for the pondage.

However, council has not formally endorsed the community petition.

The Express contacted the state government but did not receive a response by time of publication.