Invermay angered by gas snub

A BALLARAT suburb that waited two years for natural gas might never have the service connected, Freedom of Information documents suggest.

Invermay was promised natural gas in 2010 as part of a Baillieu Government election commitment, yet residents are still forced to purchase expensive gas bottles at double the price.

Now, documents obtained by the state opposition under the Freedom of Information Act suggest the initiative would never be viable. But this wasn’t news to Invermay residents 

Invermay Progress Association president Ian Martin said Invermay residents should not be penalised with exorbitant gas prices for living where they did.

But he reacted with surprise in 2010 when the promise was made.

Mr Martin said he was so dubious he had approached the government to clarify the commitment.

“It makes no sense to me,” he said.

“It is dubious, because of the size of the subdivisions, that it would be viable – which the Liberal Party would have known before the election.

“The progress association was quite excited about it but thought it was a bit extreme because we’re on five-acre allotments here.

“We thought it might have been a mistake but we checked with them and had a response in writing that it was their policy.”

He said it would be a better solution to subsidise gas bottles for rural communities where natural gas was not available.

In 2010 the Coalition government committed $100 million over four years to extend natural gas across regional Victoria, with 13 towns earmarked to go first, including Invermay and Avoca.

But according to FOI documents which have been obtained by the Labor opposition, all three Victorian gas distribution businesses believe it would not be viable to connect natural gas to all of these communities.

The documents also reveal that the government has known about this for almost a year. 

Opposition spokeswoman for regional and rural development Jacinta Allan said people living in the 13 towns had been strung aloR.R

“These communities will be bitterly disappointed to learn that the government has known for months that they may not be able to deliver,” she said.

But Deputy Premier and Regional Development Minister Peter Ryan said the project was still going ahead.

He said gas distribution businesses were due to respond to a fixed subsidy offer to connect remaining priority towns within the next two weeks.