Voices of the Valley – Media Release
No answers from the Parliamentary Secretary
30th Aug 2014
Voices of the Valley today condemned the lack of answers from the Parliamentary Secretary, Craig Ondarchie MLC, in response to questions about rehabilitation of Hazelwood mine and other issues. The meeting with Mr Onarchie was arranged following the Premier’s refusal to meet with community members.
Mrs Wendy Farmer, President of Voices of the Valley:
“Premier Napthine is still missing in action, so he’s sent the Parliamentary Secretary, Craig Ondarchie, to meet with us. Although Mr Ondarchie expressed sympathy and concern, he did not have the authority to respond to our issues.”
“So now we’re still waiting for the Premier’s response. When is the government planning to address the safety issues at Hazelwood mine? The next fire season is almost upon us, and as far as we can tell, nothing has happened in terms of making the mine safer.”
Voices of the Valley presented a letter to Mr Ondarchie to be delivered to the Premier, outlining a range of concerns of the community, and again requesting that Premier Napthine visit the Latrobe Valley and discuss these issues in person (see attached).
“The Opposition Leader, Daniel Andrews, was prepared to meet with us. We believe that the issues in the Valley also warrant the Premier’s personal attention.”
Mrs Wendy Farmer
President, Voices of the Valley
0408 261 551
Hon. Dr Denis Napthine
c/o Mr Craig Ondarchie MLC
30th July 2014
Dear Premier Napthine,
On behalf of Voices of the Valley I would like to bring to your attention the plight of the people in the Latrobe Valley area since the coal mine fire. Residents of Latrobe Valley affected by the mine fire smoke believe they were not listened to at the start, middle or end of the fire. Residents have experienced inconvenience, caused by the ash that covered their homes, some of which were described as dirtier following clean up attempts by untrained cleaners payed for by local government; the personal burden of costs for items such as extra fuel used in efforts to avoid the smoke by residents not eligible for government assistance; and most importantly deteriorating health and wellbeing, especially for those who had pre-existing illnesses and have experienced a worsening of symptoms such as asthma, fatigue, depression, anxiety and allergies. These issues exacerbate the difficulties already experienced by people living in this area- high unemployment, low levels of employment security, low incomes relative to the rest of the state and high levels of diseases such as diabetes and lung cancer. As you can imagine all these factors contribute to high crime rates.
Voices of the Valley demands to know what support your government will give the residents of the Latrobe Valley to assist with the economic and health problems. On the grounds that the coal mine fire has been the most significant incident in Victoria that has occurred on your watch, we reiterate our request that you visit the Latrobe Valley personally and discuss these issues with us. It is not appropriate for you to be receiving information third hand. As Premier it is your duty to visit areas afflicted by fire, flood, drought or other disasters to personally demonstrate that the State of Victoria is sympathetic with the victims and doing what is possible to help. In this instance it is extremely important for local morale because many residents feel they have been ignored by the government since the start of the fire incident. To not visit is insulting and disrespectful to the people of the Latrobe Valley.
Attached is a list of questions that we request that you respond to.
Mrs Wendy Farmer
Voices of the Valley
Premier Napthine, will your government commit to:
- Rehabilitate all non-operational mine faces of the Hazelwood mine? This is necessary for the safety of the community and would also create hundreds of jobs.
- Review all mine bonds? Currently the bond for Hazelwood is $15m – a small fraction of what is required for proper rehabilitation. Is this indicative of the inadequacy of other rehabilitation bonds?
- Undertake to immediately release and implement the outcomes of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry once its finding are handed down?
- Regardless of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry and its recommendations, the bushfire season is just around the corner. What has your Government and what are you going to do to prevent the next mine fire which last summer cost tens of millions of dollars to contain and burdened over 20,000+ Latrobe Valley residents?
- Fair health support with health checks, testing, and ongoing health assessments?
- Given the current chronic health issues, declare the Latrobe Valley a Health Conservation area, and assess any future industrial developments for potential health impacts before they are approved?
- Reassess the 13 billion tonnes of coal that has been earmarked for allocation? Some of which is directly under Federation University in Churchill and under productive farmland. (See map) Wind farms have an 5km exclusion from major towns, including Moe, Morwell and Traralgon, yet a coal mine or unconventional gas well can be on our backdoor within 100 metres
- Implementing a jobs creation plan for the Latrobe Valley? We are again seeing workers being retrenched this week. To date, hundreds of millions of dollars have been thrown at speculative coal industry projects, but where are the jobs? We need investment in a diversified economy and future industries for the Latrobe Valley: new manufacturing such as pre-fab houses and buildings, renewable energy components, value-adding to Gippsland’s agricultural sector, and service sector jobs.
- Address the structural issues of drainage of storm water on the north side of the M1 in Morwell which is impacting residents and threatening the stability of the freeway? Our independent expert advice suggests that there are serious ongoing issues in this area. We have already experienced major disruptions with the closure of the M1 in 2011.