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We must act now to achieve a just transition from coal-powered to renewable energy that is centred on the diversification of industry. We need significant investment in employment opportunities that support and highlight the abundance of large and small-scale renewable energy projects and opportunities in our region. A truly just transition is informed by the people who live and work in the Latrobe Valley and whose future is most impacted by a move away from coal-powered energy.
Power stations are coming to the end of their working lives. Without a more strategic and integrated approach for the future of the Latrobe region, we could end up with a patchwork of fenced-off lakes. We need to look beyond this and explore all available and viable options for rehabilitation of our region's mines. Hazelwood ceased operations in 2017 and Yallourn and Loy Yang will do so in the near future, so careful consideration and planning for mine rehabilitation needs to happen now to ensure a positive, post-mining legacy for the Latrobe Valley.
Access to safe, adequate housing support and services has a huge impact on health and quality of life. Everyone deserves the basic right of having a place to call home, and this builds confidence, connectedness and pride of place. The rental crisis sweeping the state means access to social and public housing is more important than ever. Immediate action and funding is required to build more homes and adequately resource local support services to ensure everybody has a roof over their head. Having enough housing, in the form people need it, is critical.
Covid-19 has exacerbated the pressures on our already stretched local health and community service systems. We already know that people in Latrobe are faced with poorer health outcomes than our metropolitan counterparts. Investment is vital to support, strengthen and expand local health and community services to level the playing field and give our communities access to the care they need, when and where they need it. The rising prevalence of food insecurity has rendered services like foodbanks more critical than ever, and these services need to be bolstered so they can continue to provide invaluable support for local communities.
In acknowledgement of poorer health outcomes faced by Latrobe communities, the region was designated the first ever Health innovation Zone (LHIZ) in the wake of the Hazelwood mine fire. On paper, the LHIZ is designed to give voice to community aspirations in the planning and delivery of better health and wellbeing outcomes. It is a place where a process of co-design with communities is actively encouraged. In order to fully realise this vision and harness the power of the LHIZ, it must be embedded into State Government planning legislation.
The climate crisis is now impacting all of us. Extreme weather events and changes to the climate are disrupting our lives and impacting our economy. It is having a profound effect on our weather patterns, environment and our health. We need to step up and fast track our efforts to reduce gas emissions while ensuring those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are not left behind or forgotten. In an electorate facing challenges about the future of the environment, the need for more action in relation to renewable sources of energy, the impact of change on current employment opportunities and the creation of a stable environment for the Valley’s next generation, swift action has never been more critical.
A just transition starts with supporting impacted and displaced workers, and our broader community, through the uncertainty of the coal closure timelines and to build and expand on the skills and strengths of our local workforce to aid employment in new industries. As it stands, the LVA is funded on a year-by-year basis, which does not provide the long-term resources or certainty required to ensure our region is able to grow and prosper into the future.
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