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‘We need help big time’ say Moe locals after Yallourn news

“I think it will definitely have an impact going forward,” she said. “There’s such an emotional connection for the valley as well.”

Leanne Stayches, whose husband is a unit controller at Yallourn, said she had expected Wednesday’s news.

Leanne Stayches and Paula Cooper in Newborough.

Leanne Stayches and Paula Cooper in Newborough. Credit:Joe Armao

“We thought it was going to come sooner. There’s been talk for a while,” she said.

Although her husband will not have reached retirement age by 2028, Ms Stayches said the closure date gave them time to prepare their finances.

Paula Cooper, whose husband also works at the station, said the seven-year timeline was sufficient for her family to put their financial arrangements in order.

But she feared a repeat of the Hazelwood closure when French energy giant Engie gave only about six months’ notice.

“It’s a worry,” she said.

Nearby, Moe Traders Association secretary Susan Broadbent said she had been upbeat about her town’s future until now.

She said Moe was still feeling the impact of the Hazelwood shutdown and estimated that between 20 and 30 businesses had folded in its wake.

The subsequent closure of the Carter Holt Harvey mill in Morwell also shook the confidence of local businesses.

Christine Waterhouse and Susan Broadbent fear for Moe’s future.

Christine Waterhouse and Susan Broadbent fear for Moe’s future. Credit:Joe Armao

Ms Broadbent said the region once attracted newcomers with its stable employment in the power and timber industries. But she fears for its future with Wednesday’s news coming on top of the state government’s decision to phase out logging of native trees by 2030.

She said many young people could not see a future for themselves in the town and urged the government to attract new industries to the area to support local jobs.

“We need government help in Moe big time,” she said.

Moe Traders Association president Christine Waterhouse, who owns a furniture store, said the decisions of electricity generators had a direct impact on local economies.

“Last time when Hazelwood closed, the spending stopped in the valley,” she said. “This is what the traders will all be worried about – uncertainty.”

But she also worried about the emotional wellbeing of workers and their families who had been through multiple redundancies.

“It’s so bad for people’s mental health,” she said.

Brian Gregory, who owns a sports and music store in Newborough, said the looming Yallourn closure came after years of insufficient investment in the area. But he said views on EnergyAustralia’s decision were mixed.

“Some people are happy because they want to tackle carbon pollution above all else,” he said. “But they will look at it differently if it devalues their homes or puts them out of a job.”

Latrobe City Council mayor Sharon Gibson said Wednesday’s announcement had taken the community by surprise and she questioned why the company and state and federal governments had not yet begun workforce transition talks.

“The valley can’t sustain these hits,” Cr Gibson said. “For every direct job, there’s three or four indirect jobs lost. You cannot sustain that.”

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Local state MP Russell Northe, an independent and a former Nationals MP, called the news “very disappointing for workers, their families and other associated businesses”.

“A seven-year lead time is at least better than the six months given for Hazelwood power station. Now the onus is on supporting these workers, but moreover investing in a greater diversity of jobs in the Latrobe Valley,” he said.

With Michael Fowler

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