An 80-year-old brick manufacturing business in Stawell has announced it will close its doors as a result of escalating gas prices.
Stawell's Advance Bricks and Pavers is in the process of closing down the business and letting go of staff, a spokesperson confirmed, after rising gas prices made the business unviable.
The manufacturer, which employs more than 20 staff, has a long history in Stawell after its founding in the town in 1940.
The closure comes after many manufacturing businesses across the Wimmera feel the strain of the country's energy crisis bite into production costs.
A confluence of issues has been blamed for the gas price shock, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, unexpected outages from coal-fired power stations and a cold snap resulting in increased demand.
The increased demand has meant a higher wholesale price for manufacturers, such as Advance Bricks, who use gas as part of their production process.
For Ararat-based electrical manufacturer AME Systems, the crisis has raised concerns about the group's long-term viability.
AME Systems managing director Nick Carthew called on the government to step in and ease pressures in the energy market.
"The ongoing gas and electricity price increases are placing substantial and unnecessary pressure on households and industry alike," he said.
"At a time when we are all already struggling to recover from the effects of COVID, the growing energy costs are placing undue fiscal pressures on the industry and, without a doubt raising the question of long-term viability.
"Our government needs to use its influence to bring stability to energy markets to keep the future of manufacturing alive."
Similarly, Luv-a-Duck chief executive James Thompson said whilst the company was not facing gas pressures at its Nhill site, energy tariffs at other locations were driving up the pressure.
"We aren't experiencing the issue with gas so much, rather escalating electricity tariffs on one of our sites outside Wimmera district which we are battling," he said.
The closure of Advance Bricks has drawn criticism from Lowan member Emma Kealy, who used the situation to call for changes to Wimmera's gas monopoly.
Energy Australia is the only provider of natural gas in the region - a natural monopoly that Ms Kealy claims has driven up prices for Wimmera customers.
To combat this, Ms Kealy called on the Victorian government to provide a worthwhile solution.
"Over the past seven years, my colleague the Member for Ripon and I have repeatedly called for the Andrews Labor Government to address the monopoly situation in our communities," she said.
"One retailer owns 100 per cent of the transmission capacity of the gas line between Carisbrook and Horsham, meaning customers have no choice.
"Furthermore, they can't access pay-on-time discounts or electronic billing discounts as they simply are not offered, because there is no incentive for the provider to do so as they know they cannot lose their customers to competitors.
"This lack of competition means residents in our electorates pay some of the highest gas rates in Victoria. The only way to break this cruel and unsustainable situation is for the government to step in, but they have continually failed to do so."
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