Village plan to grow Gippsland

Committee for Gippsland chief executive Sophie Morell is calling on industry experts to come forward and help with advice on government policy. photograph hayley mills

Committee for Gippsland chief executive Sophie Morell is calling on industry experts to come forward and help with advice on government policy. photograph hayley mills

Sitting inside a Morwell restaurant, newly-appointed Committee for Gippsland chief executive Sophie Morell outlines her plans for the future of Gippsland's business sector and the journey she plans to take the advocacy body on.

Ms Morell was appointed to the role eight weeks ago after inaugural chief executive Mary Aldred moved on to head up the Franchise Council of Australia.

The former small business owner says she has the skills, networks and knowledge required to advocate for the business sector with the organisation currently representing about 90 small to multi-national businesses plus a handful of not-for-profit organisations.

Most recently the Newborough resident oversaw the formation of the office of the Latrobe Valley Mine Rehabilitation Commissioner alongside commissioner Professor Rae Mackay.

Ms Morell said a Traralgon bypass was top of the agenda for projects in the Latrobe Valley, stating it was not a matter of if it would happen, but when.

The organisation is also expected to launch an appeal for expressions of interest to create a village of advisors made up of semi-retirees and retirees who can advise the committee on government policy.

"Our village of advisors would be for people who are still passionate about the region that want to have input into state and federal policy," Ms Morell said.

Previously the committee has relied on a policy manager who has responded internally on behalf of the committee's members.

"We're looking for people who are interested in contributing to that across Gippsland and as policies we would put them out to a village – we wouldn't expect people to do it for free. [It] might happen once a year or four times. It depends on the policy," Ms Morell said.

"We're talking about policies from environmental through to red tape. Every area across the six [local government areas] is different so it's important we have diversity in our village.

"When we're looking at major projects for Gippsland we want to make sure we have the right brains there contributing to the table and also very passionate about Gippsland to make sure we get the right infrastructure and policies in place."

Ms Morell said the village of experts would allow the committee to transform into a "forward-thinking organisation" to rival other regional areas such as Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong for investment.

Speaking on the Traralgon bypass, Ms Morwell said a project team was in place with VicRoads assessing a suitable and agreed route which would boost productivity for Gippsland more broadly.

She said most Traralgon businesses were in favour of the proposed bypass and those apprehensive at the time of the survey "have subsequently realised the benefits of a bypass".

"There's 10 sets of traffic lights to get from one end of Traralgon to the other. When you remove those B doubles off those roads you're actually opening up Traralgon to be more economically viable," Ms Morell said.

A dedicated Gippsland rail line and Australian Paper Maryvale's energy from waste project also has Ms Morell's backing, along with the sealing of South Face Road between Rawson and Mount Baw Baw which would boost tourism to the region.

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