Latrobe City Council mayor, Councillor Kellie O’Callaghan joined with her counterparts on Friday 3 February 2017 to participate in the Federal Government’s Hazelwood Taskforce Meeting.
The meeting, called by Minister for Infrastructure and Member for Gippsland Darren Chester, included the mayors of Latrobe City, Baw Baw Shire and Wellington Shire.
Cr O’Callaghan said the meeting featured a robust exchange of information and a strong commitment to a cooperative approach to transition.
“Our thanks to Minister Chester for creating the opportunity for this discussion – it was well received by all participants and I’m pleased to note that the collective areas of agreement far outweighed any disagreements,” Cr O’Callaghan.
“On the task of transition, the meeting featured a strong collective desire to secure a meaningful jobs announcement before the 31 March 2017 closure of Hazelwood Power Station.
“While there was warm support for the individual asks from each Council, we did land on decentralisation as an agreed key priority.”
Decentralisation of a government agency to Latrobe City was acknowledged as having positive impacts for each of the three municipalities.
“If a Federal and a State Government agency were relocated, it may also mean that an infrastructure package would also follow,” Cr O’Callaghan said.
“The Geelong example resulted in 700 jobs and a new purpose-built agency headquarters providing a one off investment in infrastructure and a long-term investment in the regional economy.
“We further noted rather ambitiously, that an announcement from the state and federal government’s around rail and rail infrastructure would complement any decentralisation announcement.
“We collectively agreed that we would like to encourage the state and federal governments to start working together. There is a level of frustration with the ongoing lack of investment in regional rail.
“There has been no meaningful investment in the Gippsland rail infrastructure since completion of the Regional Fast Rail project in 2005/06. The fact is that some commuter services from Warragul to Melbourne are now slower than in 2000. Rail investment stands as an opportunity to unlock the considerable potential of our region.
“We thank Minister Chester for his time and we acknowledge his ongoing commitment to working with each of the Council’s impacted by the Hazelwood closure announcement.”
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