Northern Grampians to invite Tony Abbott to Stawell

COUP: Northern Grampians Shire Council hopes to lure Prime Minister Tony Abbott to Stawell to discuss dark matter.

COUP: Northern Grampians Shire Council hopes to lure Prime Minister Tony Abbott to Stawell to discuss dark matter.

NORTHERN Grampians Shire Council will invite Prime Minister Tony Abbott to Stawell to discuss dark matter.

The Centre of Excellence for Particle Research has expressed interest in using part of Stawell's underground gold mine to detect dark matter.

Mayor Kevin Erwin said site suitability testing was underway.

"It has been going for about a month now," he said.

He said initial tests were positive.

"It's not only big for Stawell, it would be the first experiment like it in the Southern Hemisphere," he said.

Professors involved in the project accompanied Cr Erwin and council chief executive Justine Linley to a meeting with Minister for Education Christopher Pyne's senior adviser last month.

"We had a half-hour meeting booked, which ended up going for more than an hour, so there is certainly considerable interest," Cr Erwin said.

"We just have to get the Prime Minister excited about it as well."

Council agreed during their June meeting to invite Mr Abbott to Stawell to outline the scope of the proposed research.

Cr Wayne Rice said the study had the potential to put Stawell in the international spotlight.

"If the findings they get in Stawell match the findings they have obtained in the Northern Hemisphere, this could really put Stawell on the world-wide map," he said.

Northern Grampians Shire Council will also help draft a letter to Mr Abbott about the importance of wind farms planned for Northern Grampians, Ararat and Pyrenees municipalities.

Cr Erwin said the proposed wind farms were at risk if the Renewable Energy Target was wound back.

"The wind farms at Crowlands, Ararat, Bulgana and Stockyard Hill are potentially a $1.68-billion investment in our region that will provide $1.3 million a year in rates to our councils, $300,000 a year to community groups and create 60 direct and 74 indirect ongoing jobs," he said.

Representatives from all three western Victorian councils met Minister for Environment Greg Hunt last month.

"I don't think the Federal Government had heard an argument based on economic development guidelines before, and were certainly keen to listen," Cr Erwin said.

"Quite a few backbenchers actually support leaving the target where it is, so we'll watch this space and see where it ends up.

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