Victoria’s Latrobe Valley is marked by its extensive and varied organic environments, which range from the dry and arid farmland that surrounds the small country town of Cowwarr to the lush rainforests of Boolarra and all variations in between.
Unfortunately, the area is also marked by is its brown coal power plant.
In a region that might otherwise have a strong green reputation, the area’s Hazelwood Power Station is the dirtiest brown coal plant in the country. It is, however, imperative to Victoria, catering to 90 per cent of the state’s electricity needs, even as it fosters a negative environmental reaction and puts a wedge in any kind of strong green ambition.
On a positive note, change is on the horizon.
This September, the Latrobe Valley will launch an international design competition to attract green building and green urban planning initiatives into the area.
The $120,000 development will be sponsored by RMIT University’s Office of Urban Transformations Research Laboratory in the School of Architecture and Design, the Latrobe City Council, the State Department of Primary Industries Clean Coal Victoria Unit and the Gippsland Climate Change Network.
The group’s aim is to undertake a regional retrofit of sorts, with the overall goal of revitalising towns and upgrading infrastructure in a way that is sustainable and environmentally responsible.
The competition is, however, only one step in the long road to greening regional Victoria says Dr. Rosalea Monacella, associate professor of landscape architecture at RMIT. Monacella explains that this initial phase is but the first step in a five-year green building project, and will offer to boost industry efforts and unlock the green potential in the Valley.
“Significant sites have been identified throughout Latrobe city and each team will select from these sites,” she says. “At a minimum, teams have to have an architect or landscape architect involved.”
Design team members can also include urban planners, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, economists, artists, students and locals.
With local employment reliant on mining practices, the competition brings with it new potential for the development of green infrastructure and ongoing green jobs.
The competition is being heralded as a major green injection into rural Australia, something that is sure to stimulate investment and promote the environmental potential of the area.
Competition winners will be announced in late November.