PORT Welshpool and Barry’s Beach, specifically Port Anthony could be the main staging point for the construction of one of the world’s biggest offshore wind farms.
That’s the view of Cr Andrew McEwen of the South Gippsland Shire Council.
Speaking at a briefing last week about a proposed supermarket development for Korumburra, potentially unlocking $20 million to $30 million in development in the town, Cr McEwen said it was only one of a number of exciting developments locally.
Specifically he listed the proposed development by the RSL of a hotel and conference centre in Leongatha, potentially launching several other developments in that town.
He raised the $25 million investment in vegetable production by the Schreurs family at Tarwin.
And also the likelihood that Port Anthony would be the staging point for the $8 billion offshore wind farm development south east of Welshpool.
“There’s a long lead time with this but you’ve seen the figures; they’re looking at generating 19 per cent of the state’s power, going into the grid in the Latrobe Valley, with 12,000 direct and indirect jobs in construction and 300 jobs on-going,” Cr McEwen said.
“They’re talking three years in the investigation and 10 years in the development so it will be ideal while the Latrobe Valley repositions itself.
“But what it says is that ‘South Gippsland is open for business’, and we’ve got a number of other things in the pipeline that we’ll hear more about in the near future.
“We’ve been saying that South Gippsland is well placed to grow and as more developments come our way it makes it more likely that we’ll see the return of the rail.
“Both sides of government are talking about extending the Cranbourne line to Clyde which makes sense but it would also be a good idea to try and get the Lang Lang sand off the highway as well.
“They’re exporting that now and we’re talking 80 truck movements-a-day from Nyora alone.”
Cr McEwen said he was reading an article in the Financial Review last Friday in which it said Australia would have a competitive advantage in the production of cheap energy from wind and solar which would eventually lead to a lot of major firms locating their manufacturing bases here.
“The cost of developing renewable energy projects is coming down making the one proposed by Offshore Energy even more likely to go ahead.”
The shire is presently trying to set a date with Managing Director Andy Evans to come to South Gippsland for an open briefing with council and the community.
Response from the port
Spokesman for Port Anthony, Ben Anthony, didn’t deny Cr McEwen’s projections but he said it was still early days.
“I couldn’t comment about whether we are specifically involved, it’s more of an umbrella thing, if it does go ahead it will be good for the whole area,” Mr Anthony said.
“But hats off to those guys. They seem to be a lot more interested in trying to engage with local business and the local community. It’s not a completely altruistic thing of course. It helps with their approach to government as well.
“But they have been engaging with local business already and to the extent they are committed to that, it sets them apart from some of the others we have seen come in from time to time.
“There would obviously be a highly technical, specialised aspect to this project if it were to go ahead and to a certain extent, you’d expect to stand back and watch them bring a lot of the components in from overseas or wherever it comes from but where they can use local expertise and local labour, they are committed to doing so.
“And I think they are pretty genuine about that.”
Mr Anthony said there were a few very promising opportunities in the wind for Port Anthony but Ben Anthony preferred to keep his powder dry.
“We’re not quite ready to make an announcement yet and we want to be a bit careful. In the past, there’s been talk about various projects that didn’t secure the funding so people tend to take this talk with a grain of salt.
“But we do have a number of opportunities and if any of them come off, which is quite likely I believe, we’ll have a good story to tell.”
There’s also been talk that Exxon-Mobil Australia might be preparing to sell its Barry Beach Marine Terminal, the main supply depot for its Bass Strait oil and gas operations, but unofficially they are just testing the market at this stage.