The Voices of the Valley community group and Environment Victoria have joined forces to call for a State and Federal government grant for new coal projects to instead be used to support local clean-up efforts in the Latrobe Valley in response to the Hazelwood mine fire.
At today’s Hazelwood inquiry community consultation session in Traralgon, Voices of the Valley will also deliver hundreds of affidavits, survey responses, photos and videos collected from residents, to help the inquiry with its investigation into how this disaster unfolded.
The State and Federal Governments were on the verge of announcing $90 million funding for Latrobe Valley coal projects via the Advanced Lignite Demonstration Program (ALDP) when the Hazelwood mine fire broke out on February 9, blanketing Morwell residents in pollution and ash. While the worst of the fire has passed, Morwell residents and the Latrobe Valley will take months to recover from one of Victoria’s worst ever pollution events.
Voice of the Valley spokesperson Simon Ellis said today:
“The immediate priority now is to clean up Morwell homes and prevent any further fires like this one at the Hazelwood mine. Already it seems some insurance companies won’t be covering people’s full clean-up costs, and the money shouldn’t be coming out of the pockets of Morwell residents.”
“The $2 million in support announced by the Napthine Government has already been used, but the clean-up isn’t close to being finished. The $90 million should be used to help the residents who have suffered in this disaster, not the coal industry.”
“It would be an insult to Latrobe Valley residents if the State and Federal Government’s first significant response to the Hazelwood fire was to fund new coal mines and technologies.”
Environment Victoria Safe Climate Campaign Manager Nicholas Aberle agreed that ALDP funds should be used to support Morwell residents and businesses financially impacted by the fire. He also added that:
“It’s time for rehabilitation work to begin in all the unused areas of the Hazelwood mine, to neutralise the fire hazard and to begin the massive task that is rehabilitation of the mine site to a form that is useful to residents. Some of that $90 million should kick-start rehabilitation efforts and create jobs for local workers right now, with a matching financial contribution also coming from GDF Suez.”
“While companies like GDF Suez should foot the bill for rehabilitating the Hazelwood mine site and power station when it closes, the sad reality is that previous governments have set very low expectations around rehabilitation. The $15 million rehabilitation bond required by the Hazelwood mining licence is completely inadequate to the task of making the site safe from fire and clean for future community use.”
Both groups welcomed the State Government’s announcement of a judicial inquiry but said it is critical for the Board of Inquiry to identify all the failings in the system that allowed the fire to take hold.
“Until we’re prepared to ask the hard questions about how this disaster was allowed to unfold, we can’t ensure we never have another incident like this again. This is just the latest in a series of catastrophic failures at Latrobe Valley coal mines in recent years. We need to ensure this is the last damaging incident,” concluded Mr Ellis.
For more information contact Holly Crocket 0413 343 329