The Victorian Government has committed $25.4 million in funding to implement all recommendations made by the Hazelwood Mine Fire Board of Inquiry.
Speaking in Morwell on Monday, Premier Daniel Andrews also announced the inquiry would recommence next month to investigate concerns of a spike in deaths following the fire.
The fire in the open-cut coal mine near Morwell burned for 45 days at the beginning of last year, raising health concerns and debate about mine safety regulations.
The $25.4 million commitment will fund safety and health initiatives including:
- Funding a long-term health study in the Latrobe Valley
- Development of the State Smoke Framework designed to reduce the impact on communities and firefighters from large-scale or extended smoke events, setting out air quality monitoring protocols, the health response and timely provision of information to those affected by smoke
- An increase to the Victorian mining regulator’s capacity to assess and monitor mine planning for fire prevention, mitigation and suppression
- The purchase of state-of-the-art air quality equipment that the Environment Protection Authority can deploy at short notice anywhere in the state
- Greater engagement with trusted local networks to help communities better understand and plan for the risks they face
- Monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the inquiry recommendations over the next three years
Bernard Teague, who led the inquiry last year, will continue as chairman.
Community group Voices of the Valley welcomed the funding commitment and reopening of the inquiry.
The group’s president Wendy Farmer said residents still suffering health problems from the mine fire needed extra clinical support.
“Many people here are still having trouble accessing adequate health services,” Ms Farmer said.
According to Ms Farmer, Premier Andrews said in a public announcement at the Morwell Bowling Club that he would act immediately to improve health services.
She said the Premier promised to arrange extra paediatricians to visit the Latrobe Valley from the Royal Children’s Hospital or other metropolitan hospitals if waiting lists were too long.
“We are pleased to hear Mr Andrews is listening,” Ms Farmer said.