By MICHELLE SLATER
Latrobe City Council has agreed to grant Opal Australian Paper reduced rates for the next 10 years under a rebate agreement in recognition of the company’s economic contribution to the region.
Latrobe City will start negotiations with the Japanese-owned company to determine the reduction amount, which will be made publicly available.
Latrobe City councillors supported the rebate at council’s June meeting.
Cr Dale Harriman said the agreement was being used to secure the company’s services in the area as one of the municipality’s largest employers.
“Not only does it employ a lot of people directly, it employs a lot of people indirectly and also uses the services of a number of small businesses in the area, it’s vital for our economy,” Cr Harriman said.
“A number of businesses have been going through a rough patch lately, Australian Paper has been doing its bit and so have the workers out there in the last 10 years to make it viable.
“I think council must do its bit to look after that.”
Opal has had long standing rates reduction arrangements with Latrobe City, the most recent 10-year agreement had expired in June last year.
The new agreement must ensure that the first year of rebates is not less than $1,355,000 per annum plus annual increments.
Cr Graeme Middlemiss outlined the context of the rebates, stating the state government had set far lower rates for the region’s coal-fired-power stations than those being granted for the paper mill.
“This is a fair agreement between Latrobe City and what is now our largest industrial operation in the Valley, there are some concessions built into it because they are such a large employer,” Cr Middlemiss said.
“The amount they are paying per evaluation for this plant vastly exceeds what was initially put in place for the power industry, so I’m not inclined to criticise this agreement.”
The proposal had attracted three public submissions, including two objections based on Opal’s capacity to pay full rates, while other ratepayers were not offered an equivalent concession.
The other submission supported the rebate.
Opal Australian Paper plans to build its Energy from Waste plant, which will diversity its business model.
Once established, Latrobe City expects the rebates will no longer be required.
By MICHELLE SLATER