THE Latrobe Valley Authority (LVA) has received funding to continue operations for only another six months before transitioning into Regional Development Victoria (RDV).

This budget announcement comes after a long period of uncertainty regarding the government body’s future in the region, and will be met with some confusion as the state government plans to merge the LVA’s operations.

Job: Current chief executive of the Latrobe Valley Authority, Chris Buckingham. Photograph supplied

“The Latrobe Valley Authority funding has been extended as part of this budget until the end of 2024 – and we’re currently working on a plan for current LVA staff and functions to be transitioned into Regional Development Victoria by the end of the year,” a state government spokesperson said.

RDV is the state government’s lead agency responsible for rural and regional economic development, which will take care of the Latrobe Valley’s transition plans at the end of the year.

“The LVA plays a very important role transitioning workers and upskilling them for jobs in future-proof industries, especially in Gippsland. This important work will continue under RDV, where some of the programs pioneered by LVA will be extended to more areas across the state,” the state government spokesperson added.

The LVA was established in November 2016 to support the region through the sustainable economic transition of Latrobe Valley workers, their families and the community at the time of the Hazelwood Power Station and Mine closure.

Since then, the LVA has operated out of Morwell to work closely with community groups and stakeholders, aiming to improve the economic outcomes of the Latrobe Valley.

Focusing on diversifying the local economy away from solely coal generation, the LVA has helped receive an investment of almost $1.5 billion which has contributed to a predicted creation of 4000 jobs through significant projects and business support.

Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Harriet Shing said the LVA has been integral for the region’s transition.

“The Latrobe Valley Authority has been an exceptionally important component of the work to develop and to deliver transition,” she said.

“We know that here in the Valley, we are in the process of intergenerational change. The move away from coal-fired power with the closure of Hazelwood in 2016 required an immediate government response, and across the Valley, we have invested more than $2 billion.

Transition: The Latrobe Valley Authority was created in 2016 following the closure of Hazelwood Power Station. File photograph

“We’re looking forward to that work continuing across transition but also across Gippsland more broadly and indeed the state in partnership with Regional Development Victoria.

“There will be a move to make sure that the LVA’s work can be incorporated within what RDV does … we do want to make sure that the LVA can continue its work until the end of this year and that we can also make sure that transition work continues through RDV and in partnership with the Commonwealth as well, as we move toward 2028 and the closure of Yallourn.”

The amount of funding allocated to continue the LVA’s work until the end of the year has not been disclosed, nor has funding for any worker support projects been mentioned, which has left Environment Victoria concerned.

“It’s very disappointing the Latrobe Valley Authority has not received funding to support the community and workers through the transition. While there is funding for regional development and jobs for this year, the fate of the Latrobe Valley Authority is unclear. The community deserves certainty and ongoing funding,” a Environment Victoria spokesperson said.

Much of the community is deeply concerned to see the wind up of the Latrobe Valley Authority, which has played an important role in facilitating the process of transition after the closure of the Hazelwood power station.

Friends of the Earth community organiser Wendy Farmer said she was concerned that the Valley would be left behind in this energy revolution.
“What happens now to ensure affected workers and their communities are assisted through continued uncertainty. Latrobe Valley has for many years been ignored by governments, we thought we had an opportunity to change that through the LVA. Will the Latrobe Valley be forgotten again?” she said.

“The last budget stressed how important the work of the Latrobe Valley Authority was and the need to continue their essential work, including the Ladder Step Up and Inclusive Employment Worker Transition programs.”

“The state government in the 2023/24 budget said that this investment would support jobs and further the economic development of the Latrobe Valley. With three coal fired power stations yet to close, we must ask what happens now to the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland Transition plan that the Victorian Government so proudly invested in. Does it become another report on a shelf?”

Member for Morwell, Martin Cameron asked whether the LVA has been that successful in facilitating an efficient transition.

“All the LVA has delivered is a $300 million glossy brochure or ‘transition plan’ that is based on ideology and doesn’t contain a single tangible action,” Mr Cameron said.
“The government says the LVA will be absorbed by Regional Development Victoria, so we can safely assume that means it will cease to exist altogether and Valley will be abandoned again.

From all state government reports, the LVA will transition into the RDV and there will no longer be that direct authority overseeing the region’s transition.
LVA staff are being informed there will be a transition process starting later this year, and the state government said there will be more details in the upcoming months.