The MCA Victoria Division welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Gippsland Draft Regional Growth Plan (the Plan).

The Gippsland region is a major centre of activity for the Victorian minerals industry with the major coal mines of the Latrobe Valley the focal point. The Latrobe Valley is home to vast brown coal deposits (lignite) which are among the world’s largest. There are approximately 33 billion tonnes of lignite in the Latrobe Valley and much of it is economically extractable at today’s coal prices and with current mining methods. The lignite mining and power generation industry accounts for a significant proportion of the economic activity and employment in the Latrobe Valley. The industry directly and indirectly provides employment to approximately 3000 people, close to 11 per cent of the workforce, in the Latrobe Valley. More tellingly one third of the higher paid jobs in the region are in the lignite mining and related power generation industry1.

In addition to the immense coal deposits Gippsland is prospective for a range of other minerals including (but not limited to): gold, base metals, and onshore natural gas from coal seams. The development of these resources has the potential to boost the economy significantly by creating high- skill, high-wage jobs right across the entire Gippsland region.

It is at the local planning scheme that local council and the minerals industry intersects. Under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act (MR(SD) Act) exploration work can be undertaken without the need for a planning permit. Mining projects are however required to gain planning approval before the work plan can be approved. Planning approval can be gained through a planning permit issued by the local government authority or through an Environmental Effects Statement process completed under the direction of the Minister for Planning. Local governments also have a role in administering the native vegetation management framework on behalf of the government.

The majority of regulations impacting on exploration and mining projects are administered by the State. For some projects Commonwealth regulations also apply. Whilst we acknowledge this demarcation of responsibilities there is often very little communication and knowledge sharing across the levels of government to enable efficient, effective and timely decision making. The process of developing regional growth Plans offers an opportunity for all stakeholders to come together to develop the strategies which will grow the State’s economy over the next few decades.

The Gippsland draft regional growth Plan is a comprehensive document that examines a wide range of factors which will be integral to the development and growth of the region over for the next few decades.

The Victorian minerals industry has traditionally been and will continue to be an important contributor to Gippsland’s growth, and it has an important role to play in the region’s future.

The MCA welcomes the Plan’s recognition of the significance of Gippsland in underpinning the State’s economy, and its important national strategic role thorough its connection to the national electricity market

The Plan outlines a good strategy for the region’s future by addressing the region’s development requirements though a wide lens, identifying that future prosperity will be delivered by a diverse economy, an increased population, the development of regional infrastructure, and through supporting a vibrant community. 

The current role of the minerals industry and what it can play in the future development and growth of Gippsland has been included throughout much of the Plan. However, there are some sections where consideration of the minerals industry is notably absent, most specifically the sections on water and utilities. The MCA recommends that the Plan be amended to ensure that the minerals industry receives the same consistent consideration and attention as other major industries.

The MCA looks forward to engaging with the Department in further developing and implementing the Plan.

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