Hutchinson reflects on station’s legacy

Former Hazelwood Power Station engineer John Hutchinson. photograph supplied

Michelle Slater

One of Hazelwood’s very first engineers reflected on the power station’s contribution to Victoria ahead of the final part of its demolition last week.

John Hutchinson began at the Hazelwood Power Station in 1957, helping to commission the first three units under the former SEC.

He said he would be sad to see the last boiler house tumble down, but the power station had served the state well for 50 years before it shut in 2017.

“It will be sad to see it going, it’s the end of Hazelwood. But it’s done its job properly and it’s done its job well,” Mr Hutchinson said.

Mr Hutchinson worked with the superintendent as the youngest person on the commissioning team at the age of 21.

He said Hazelwood’s construction provided an economic stimulus for the Latrobe Valley, helping to build what was the “biggest and most effective power station in Victoria”.

“The enthusiasm was great and the team work was great, we had a lot of good times at Hazelwood. People loved to work and make progress,” he said.

“We celebrated the commissioning of each unit as we went along. We got together with the management team to have a few beers and say ‘here’s to Unit 1, or here’s to Unit 2′”.

Mr Hutchinson left Hazelwood to go and work at Yallourn, before returning two decades later for a major overhaul.

He said the superintendent used to walk the power station each day to find out what was happening and pass on comments to the station managers to “fix things when they needed fixing”.

“It ran wonderfully, there was always things to be done and they were fixed when they showed up a problem,” he said.

Mr Hutchinson said he was even given a commemorative windcheater to mark the record for producing the most megawatt hours in the early 70s.

“But the power station was designed to last 50 years, Hazelwood staggered over the line at the finish. Closure disappointed a lot of people, but it had to happen some time,” he said.

“It’s then a major job to pull it down, I think the chimneys coming down was a clear message to everyone. But now the whole station will be gone.”