Originally written by BRIAN O’BRIEN
HEYWOOD has greatly improved its prospects of getting natural gas with the release of plans to join the SEA Gas pipeline to the Heywood Pulp Mill.
The proposed pipeline will go from a junction on the current pipeline – four kilometres south of Byaduk – and travel 31 kms to the $400 million pulp mill.
Because the proposed mill is just five kilometres north of Heywood, there is a strong push beginning to extend natural gas into the town.
It’s a unique opportunity for the town which missed out being connected when the government’s National Gas Extension Program finished this year. Under this program, 34 Victorian towns were connected to natural gas.
The member for South West Coast, Dr Denis Napthine, now believes a gas pipeline to the pulp mill is a heaven-sent opportunity to extend it a few kilometres into Heywood and reticulate gas around the town.
The initial response from the State Government was cautious.
A spokesman for Victorian Energy Minister, Theo Theophanous, said the pipeline to the pulp mill was a matter for private investors. However, the government would facilitate talks between commercial gas companies, Glenelg Shire and the Heywood community regarding extension of natural gas to the Heywood township.
While the Heywood Pulp Mill investors would pay for the connection from the SEA Gas pipeline to the mill, the question remains as to who would pay for the remaining connection to the town and the reticulation around it.
Dr Napthine said Heywood was a growing community of 1300 people.
In a letter to State and Regional Development Minister, John Brumby, Dr Napthine implored him to urgently examine the costs and benefits of bringing natural gas to the Heywood community.
Dr Napthine told Mr Brumby that Heywood had several potential significant gas users such as the 50-bed Heywood Hospital, Heywood Stockfeeds, Bison Engineering and Portland Pine Products as well as residential users.
Bringing natural gas to Heywood would help attract new industries, investment and jobs to the town.
Town to grow
Most of the expected 100 permanent new employees at the pulp mill would also be attracted to live in Heywood, giving Heywood a real ‘shot in the arm’.
“However, if no natural gas is available for the township, these employees may be attracted to live in Portland and Hamilton which already have natural gas,” he told Mr Brumby.
Dr Napthine said natural gas was better for the environment that most other fuel sources – and was significantly cheaper than bottled gas.
“The lower cost of natural gas would be advantageous to local business, health service providers and to households, especially as Heywood has a relatively high number of families on low incomes and senior citizens with limited means.”
“Therefore, I urge you and the State Government to take advantage of this unique situation and work with the relevant stakeholders to facilitate the connection of Heywood to natural gas,” he told Mr Brumby.
Heywood area councillor for Glenelg Shire, Joy Benbow, said it was time for a concerted lobbying effort to get the pipeline extended to Heywood.
Cr Benbow, who is also on the pulp mill advisory committee, said the community would be delighted if the pipeline was extended to the town.
“We really need to get writing letters,” she said. “We would encourage all Heywood community groups to get behind the concept and give it a real push.
“We have to strike while the iron is hot. There are many businesses in Heywood that would benefit like Portland Pine Products which has gone to (bottled) gas for their processing.”
Cr Benbow said the State Government had promised Heywood would get natural gas so it was the obvious body to pay for the 5km extension.