Morwell Power Station, riddled with asbestos, granted heritage protection in 'failure of common sense' – ABC Online

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The ancient Morwell Power Station and briquette factory, a derelict eyesore riddled with asbestos on the outskirts of the Latrobe Valley town of Morwell, has been granted heritage listing.

The former Energy Brix Power Station once brought brown coal-fired electricity into Victorian homes but closed in 2014 and has sat idle since.

The Heritage Council of Victoria issued an interim protection order for the site in March last year and has now listed the site for protection.

Moe resident, Cheryl Wragg, was behind the nomination and said it was a special site that warrants protection on four grounds.

“It’s the oldest coal-fired power station in the state, it’s the rarest in terms of engineering, it’s the only remnant of Victoria’s briquetting industry and it demonstrates the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, which changed the course of Victoria’s history,” she said.

Ms Wragg said she want to see the site returned to its glory days and redeveloped into a tourist attraction and memorial to those who worked there.

“That means lots of jobs in the Latrobe Valley in terms of restoration and construction,” Ms Wragg said.

Full of asbestos

The site contains between 10,000 and 15,000 cubic metres of class A and B asbestos, mainly in the power station.

Asbestos Council of Victoria chief executive officer Vicky Hamilton wants to see all of the buildings demolished.

“It’s a danger. The whole place is a toxic dump and it needs to be pulled down,” she said.

The Latrobe Valley already has a high rate of mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases.

“It’s an insult to see it standing there. It’s a reminder of the pain and suffering the workers have already been through,” Ms Hamilton said.

“We’re not being listened to as far as I’m concerned.”

$80 million clean-up bill

Morwell power station and briquette factory

The company Energy Brix Australia Corporation, which was the final operator of the site, went into liquidation in 2014.

“We only wanted to demolish the power station which is the building that contains the majority of the asbestos,” Energy Brix remediation general manager Barry Dungey said.

Mr Dungey said it will cost $60-80 million to make the site safe. He said demolition was the cheaper option, coming in at about $25 million.

“My personal opinion is it’s a failure of common sense,” he said.

Mr Dungey said a buyer was interested in the site and would spend more than $100 million to establish a business to make high-value coal products, but only if the power station is demolished.

“We can apply for a demolition permit on the basis of health and safety grounds and that will be the path we go down,” Mr Dungey said.

“The only person that can stop this now is the Victorian Plotting Minister,” he said.

A spokesman for the Minister, Richard Wynne, said the Minister will consider the heritage report and any options for intervention.

The Latrobe City Council said it would work to ensure any costs relating to the protection of the site were not borne by local ratepayers.

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