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The Victorian Government has today announced the establishment of an Economic Growth Zone in the Latrobe Valley, part of a $226 million package to help boost the local economy following the announcement yesterday that the Hazelwood power station is set to close.

French energy company ENGIE, an owner of the plant, stated that the power station was no longer economically viable and as such will officially close it by the end of March. The plant employs around 750 people; around 250 will remain on until 2023 to help manage the rehabilitation of the site.

To help the local economy move through the plant’s closure, the Economic Growth Zone will cover the local government areas of Latrobe City Council, Wellington Shire, and Baw Baw Shire.

As part of the development of the Zone, a business buying a $500,000 property to move into the Latrobe Valley could receive a reimbursement of up to $25,000 on their stamp duty.

The Red Tape Commissioner will also look to find ways to reduce red tape in the area and identify regulatory barriers prohibiting growth, while a team of trade and investment specialists will work in the area to explore export opportunities and attract new businesses.

As part of the wider $226 million package, the Government has created a $10 million ‘economic facilitation fund’ to help grow new businesses, while $22 million will also look to help support workers and businesses affected by the closure of the Hazelwood plant.

Initiatives within the $22 million package include the establishment of a Worker Transition Centre in partnership with the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council in Morwell to provide one on one support, as well as education, counselling, financial advice, and subsidised job seeker training for workers in transition.

Also part of the package will be tailored support for businesses to help them identify new opportunities and develop a transition plan, and an expansion of the Back to Work program to businesses that employ workers in the Latrobe Valley.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told 3AW radio this morning, ‘If we look at unemployment over the long term, there are big challenges in the Latrobe Valley. They need our support and we are doing everything we can to attract business in the area.”

The government will also establish a $174 million Community Infrastructure and Investment Fund for local projects, such as upgrades to road and rail services, schools and health services, as well a $20 million fund to establish a dedicated Latrobe Valley Authority to lead the government’s response and manage the transition and future economic development of the Latrobe Valley.

Also providing support to the area is the Federal Government with a $43 million package, including a $20 million regional jobs and investment plan and $20 million for local infrastructure.

Image: the Hazelwood power station. Source: ABC.

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