Air pollution in Latrobe Valley requires urgent action


The Victorian Greens have welcomed the findings of an inquiry into air pollution but say they ignore important health concerns raised by communities in the Latrobe Valley and Melbourne’s inner-west.

The inquiry tabled its final report today, which made a number of important findings including that the Government has failed to release its promised 2019 Air Quality Strategy. 

Importantly, it recommended that clean air zones be established and that a review be undertaken of the scheme for conditional licences for heavy industry.

However, evidence provided to the inquiry on the disproportionate effects of air pollution in the Latrobe Valley and Melbourne’s inner-west were not responded to adequately in the final report.

This is despite the fact the committee heard from many experts and residents over several months about how these communities were being ignored and forgotten by governments, left to endure the devastating consequences of air pollution.

Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam, was on the committee and said it was disappointing that the inquiry’s report failed to recommend measures to reduce air pollution at its source, such as brown coal power stations, and respond to the evidence it received about the poor health outcomes being experienced by families in the Latrobe Valley and Melbourne’s inner-west.

She added that the report failed to acknowledge the disease burden these communities were carrying or recommend the types of interventions that could improve air quality.

In a minority report submitted by Ms Ratnam, she cited a number of findings that were left out of the majority report including that:

  • Residents of the Latrobe Valley experience poorer health outcomes than the Victorian average
  • Residents of the Latrobe Valley are concerned and frustrated that their health concerns aren’t adequately considered in decision making about the operation of industries that contribute to pollution in their environment
  • The renewal of the licences for Victoria’s brown coal power stations did not include the implementation of best practice standards for air pollution mitigation
  • The failure of the EPA to require point source emissions controls in the renewal of brown coal power stations in Victoria represented a missed opportunity to reduce air pollution
  • Residents of Melbourne’s inner-west experience poorer health outcomes when compared to the Australian average

Ms Ratnam said that while the committee omitted these findings from the final report, it was critical that the state government take action to reduce the poorer health outcomes faced by communities in the Latrobe Valley and Melbourne’s inner-west.

In her minority report Ms Ratnam has made a raft of her own recommendations including that the real-time monitoring of air quality in the Latrobe Valley be implemented and shared with the community.

Quotes attributable to Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam MLC:

"Communities in the Latrobe Valley and Melbourne’s inner-west have been pleading with the state government for action on the air pollution in their areas for years to no avail.

"The inquiry heard from experts and residents alike who gave us startling evidence on the poor health outcomes facing families and the government’s woeful inaction.

"I’m pleased with many of the findings and recommendations in our majority report today, but am disappointed so much was left out that could have spurred the government to act.

"Communities everywhere deserve protection from breathing in dirty air, and in the Latrobe Valley where the country’s most polluting coal-fired power station sits, this should be a priority."