LVA’s performance in spotlight

Summit: A Parliamentary Inquiry into the closure of Hazelwood and Yallourn power stations took place in Traralgon last week. photograph alyssa fritzlaff

Alyssa Fritzlaff

THE state government said it is “confident” about the longevity of the Latrobe Valley Authority, despite no confirmation of funding after June this year.

Regional Development Minister Mary-Anne Thomas was in the Latrobe Valley last week,
stating that the appointment of new LVA chief executive officer Chris Buckingham indicated the government’s stance on the organisation.

“The recent appointment of a new CEO at the Latrobe Valley Authority, I think, says everything that you need to know about this government’s commitment to the LVA and to the people of the Latrobe region,” Ms Thomas said.

“Our government stands by its record of investment here in the Latrobe Valley, $2 billion
of investment in this region since we were first elected. We established the LVA and we stand by the LVA. Funding for the LVA, like many other government agencies and authorities is just subject to normal budget cycles.”

Ms Thomas’ comments came as Mr Buckingham was appearing in front of a Parliamentary Inquiry committee into the closure of the Hazelwood and Yallourn power stations.

Mr Buckingham appeared with Regional Development Victoria regional director Sara

Mr Buckingham told the committee he believed coal may exit the market by 2032.
“We are in for a ride,” he said.

In his submission, Mr Buckingham acknowledged the work of the LVA during the 2017 Hazelwood closure was not “perfect”.

“Through the worker transition service we facilitated, we delivered a response that supported 730 Hazelwood workers, and also their families, friends and neighbours. Was it a perfect response? No,” he said.

“The organisation has matured, continues to learn and is determined to deliver a stronger, more effective response as the community grapples with the success of changes to the structure of our economy.”

Mr Buckingham was intensely questioned by Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Melina
Bath on the LVA’s claim that it created 4000 jobs for workers effected by the Hazelwood closure.

Ms Bath pushed for a figure that determined how many jobs out of the 4000 were ongoing
employment opportunities.

The new CEO was unable to produce an exact figure at the time of questioning and told the
committee he would take it on notice.

“I’m happy to take it on notice, but I think it’s also worth acknowledging that the local market has changed in recent times, and the idea of a lifelong job is a thing of the past,” he said.

Ms Bath also questioned Mr Buckingham on the continuation of funding for the LVA.

In response, Mr Buckingham said the issue of funding was a matter for the state government.

“From my understanding the budget will be announced on the third of May,” he said.

During questioning, Mr Buckingham stated the importance of community involvement in the LVA’s role in the 2028 closure of Yallourn Power Station.

“The thing that I’ve observed about the LVA’s approach is that it is by Gippslanders, for
Gippslanders, in Gippsland,” he said.

“I think what the LVA is demonstrating is the ability for a government authority to help engage community in those conversations.”

Labor Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing also questioned Mr Buckingham on the
employment opportunities created by the LVA.

Mr Buckingham said he believed the Latrobe Valley had work to do before its workforce was ready for billions worth of offshore, onshore renewable energy and geothermal investments.

“Part of what the LVA is doing right now is mapping out what jobs will be required, and when, and indeed how we will orientate the community towards a future that is very different to the one that we may well think we will be facing right now,” he said.