Projects prime shire

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Front Page - BY DEAN LAW­SON

Afi­nan­cial rub­ber stamp shoring up an un­der­ground physics lab­o­ra­tory project in Stawell has helped place the city and its sur­round­ing district on track for a dra­matic pop­u­la­tion in­crease.

Fig­ures based on per­ma­nent full­time jobs gen­er­ated by projects un­der­way in the shire sug­gest Stawell district pop­u­la­tion might grow by 1000 within five years.

North­ern Grampians Shire Coun­cil is al­ready busy work­ing on ways to ac­com­mo­date a po­ten­tial in­flux of work­ers, likely to in­clude a broad mix of em­ploy­ees through Bul­gana Green Power Hub as well as the un­der­ground lab­o­ra­tory.

It is work­ing with neigh­bour­ing Ararat and Pyre­nees coun­cils to ad­dress a press­ing re­gional hous­ing short­age.

Ex­pec­ta­tions are that the Bul­gana hub, in­volv­ing re­new­able-en­ergy com­pany Neoen and hor­ti­cul­ture pro­ducer Nec­tar Farms, will gen­er­ate hun­dreds of jobs while the lab will cre­ate about 80 on­go­ing po­si­tions.

North­ern Grampians coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Michael Bai­ley said longterm de­vel­op­ment projects un­der­way would have a pro­found im­pact on the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

“It’s go­ing to in­volve a mas­sive change in so­cio-eco­nomic dy­nam­ics, right across the shire,” he said.

“We recog­nise North­ern Grampians is on the move. We’re see­ing dif­fer­ent re­tail de­vel­op­ments, Bul­gana hub, the physics lab­o­ra­tory, the reig­ni­tion of Stawell Gold Mines, which is do­ing amaz­ing things, and Frew­stal con­tin­u­ing to be a world leader in meat pro­cess­ing and ex­port.

“And it’s not just Stawell – we have hay ex­porter Gil­mac at St Ar­naud and an ex­pan­sion of events such as Marnoo Merino Field Days.

“Coun­cil­lors have been in­cred­i­bly pas­sion­ate about mov­ing North­ern Grampians for­ward through de­vel­op­ment and it’s pay­ing div­i­dends.

“It shows what lo­cal govern­ment can achieve.”

Hard work

Mr Bai­ley said a $5-mil­lion State Govern­ment com­mit­ment to back Stawell Un­der­ground Physics Lab­o­ra­tory rep­re­sented about six years of spec­u­la­tion, in­ves­ti­ga­tion, plan­ning and ad­vo­cacy.

“Just to un­der­stand what this project is about takes a lot of headspace and coun­cil­lors have been able to ar­tic­u­late po­ten­tial ben­e­fits, not only for Stawell and the shire, but in­ter­na­tion­ally. It’s been a huge effort,” he said.

“The re­al­ity is there could be a No­bel Prize for the sci­ence at the end of it all and to think our shire would be at the heart of this would be some­thing spe­cial.”

The sci­ence lab will be one kilo­me­tre un­der­ground at Stawell Gold Mine and pro­vide en­vi­ron­ment and re­search fa­cil­i­ties needed in the search for un­der­stand­ing about ‘dark mat­ter’, one of the great mys­ter­ies in the uni­verse.

Ex­pec­ta­tions are that the project will gen­er­ate $180.2-mil­lion for the Stawell econ­omy in its first 10 years.

Most con­trac­tors for lab­o­ra­tory con­struc­tion and fit out will come from Stawell district and western Vic­to­ria, with 15 full-time-equiv­a­lent roles cre­ated dur­ing the first phase of work.

This will in­volve geotech­ni­cal en­gi­neers, earth­mov­ing-equip­ment op­er­a­tors, elec­tri­cal trades­peo­ple and trans­port op­er­a­tors.

Ed­u­ca­tion

Mr Bai­ley said ed­u­ca­tion ben­e­fits for Stawell were con­sid­er­able, es­pe­cially when con­sid­er­ing a coun­ter­part project in Italy at­tracted vis­its from about 8000 stu­dents a year.

“Some of the most recog­nised sci­ence brains in the world will be vis­it­ing or es­tab­lish­ing them­selves in our com­mu­nity,” Mr Bai­ley said.

“That has to have dra­matic im­pact in mould­ing the dy­nam­ics of the com­mu­nity and fu­tures of our chil­dren.

“What’s it all about? In lay­men’s terms, we have a big hole in the ground where there is lit­er­ally al­ready an es­tab­lished ‘pot of gold’.

“It’s been about look­ing be­yond that and see­ing an­other vastly dif­fer­ent type of ‘gold’.

“This is a great case of in­dus­try meet­ing global ed­u­ca­tion, sci­ence, govern­ment and com­mu­nity. It ab­so­lutely ticks all the boxes when it comes to real­is­ing po­ten­tial that might have oth­er­wise gone un­re­alised.”

The Fed­eral Govern­ment is also fund­ing con­struc­tion of the lab, which will be 30 me­tres long, 10 me­tres wide and 10 me­tres high.

North­ern Grampians mayor Kevin Erwin ap­plauded the State Govern­ment’s com­mit­ment to the project.

“It will mean the cre­ation of lo­cal jobs and ed­u­ca­tion opportunit­ies in our shire. This is very ex­cit­ing,” he said.

Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Ja­clyn Symes said the lab would place Vic­to­ria’s sci­en­tific ex­per­tise on the world map.

“It will not only po­si­tion us as a leader in dark-mat­ter re­search, but it will also bring job opportunit­ies and in­vest­ment to the re­gion,” she said.

“It will di­ver­sify Stawell’s econ­omy – at­tract­ing a new highly-skilled work­force to the re­gion to live and work.”

The project is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Univer­sity of Melbourne, Swin­burne Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, Univer­sity of Ade­laide, Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity, Aus­tralian Nu­clear Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Organisati­on and Ital­ian Na­tional In­sti­tute for Nu­clear Physics.

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