Hazelwood Closure Could be a Social Catastrophe
4 November 2016 at 9:43 am
Welfare peak body the Victorian Council of Social Service has warned of a social catastrophe in the Latrobe Valley if local communities aren’t adequately supported during the closure of the Hazelwood power station.
French power giant ENGIE has announced the closure of the Gippsland plant would take place in March 2017.
VCOSS said hundreds of jobs would be lost, with knock-on effects for other businesses and local communities.
“The Victorian Government, the Commonwealth and ENGIE must move swiftly to soften the blow of this closure,” VCOSS CEO Emma King said.
King said the key to supporting local communities through the transition was by strengthening local health and community services, including mental health providers, so they are ready for a spike in demand for help.
“As well there must be an investment in training and new jobs opportunities for laid off workers, particularly in plant decommissioning and rehabilitation, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and the state’s booming health and social services sector,” she said.
She said this needed to involve local people in decisions about their future, supporting the region’s existing strengths and championing local leaders, and there was also a role for the withdrawing power giant ENGIE.
“Power industry leaders need to open their wallets to help these communities,” she said.
“These power companies have made a lot of money over the years extracting natural resources and processing them for sale. Now they have a responsibility to help with the region’s long-term recovery.
“It’s time to step up and help these communities thrive again.”
Many communities across the Latrobe Valley, including Moe and Morwell, already face significant disadvantage and high unemployment.
VCOSS congratulated the Victorian Government on the establishment of a Latrobe Valley transition taskforce and encouraged the government to ensure broad and local representation on the task force.