Hazelwood petition to be tabled

Michelle Slater

A delegation of Latrobe Valley community members are off to State Parliament on Wednesday hoping to meet with Regional Development Minister Jaclyn Symes to discuss the Hazelwood Pondage.

Member for Morwell Russell Northe will also table a petition in Parliament signed by about 4800 people asking the Victorian government to step in and reopen the pondage.

“It is obvious that ENGIE doesn’t have any interest in operating the pondage in the future so the state government has some responsibility in this space,” Mr Northe said.

“There are examples in the past where they have taken over community assets or even bought businesses. They purchased the Heyfield sawmill.”

Mr Northe said the response to the petition demonstrated how strongly the community felt about maintaining the pondage, after its owner energy company ENGIE closed it 18-months ago.

He called on the government to kick-start a feasibility study into re-opening the pondage and to work with Latrobe City Council and ENGIE to find solutions.

“They [government] showed interest before in terms of putting barramundi in the pondage. We need them to do much more than that,” Mr Northe said.

Mr Northe said he was still waiting for a ministerial response after he had previously asked Ms Symes to meet with local residents.

Hazelwood Pondage Action Group acting chair Paul Vanderzalm is one of the local delegates hoping to meet with Ms Symes on Wednesday.

“With the amount of clubs using it, it’s another disgrace the state government doesn’t keep this place open for people,” Mr Vanderzalm said.

Latrobe Valley Yacht Club member Bruce Reynolds said although water levels were low, it was still a valuable community asset.

“It’s in a sad condition but if you look at it with other eyes it could be tidied-up as it’s still a useful piece of water even at its lowest level,” Mr Reynolds said.

Ms Symes said independent analysis found that pondage remediation would cost tens of millions of dollars.

“As owner of the pondage, ENGIE has determined that it is not viable to retain the pondage as it is, and is looking at alternative remediation options for the site,” Ms Symes said.

“I look forward to being part of the ongoing community conversation about the site’s future and ensuring that its future use compliments the Labor Government’s efforts to create more jobs and support the communities of the Latrobe Valley.”