This article first appeared in Basscoastpost.com – 12th April 2014, by Catherine Watson:
THE Shadow Minister for Ports, Natalie Hutchins, says Bay West remains Labor’s preferred option for Victoria’s main container port despite an investigation that found it would require massive dredging of Port Phillip Bay at a cost of billions. (Dredging blow to port plan, The Age, April 9, 2014).
Ms Hutchins told the Post the Department of Transport report was “just another desperate attempt to justify the Napthine’s Government flawed planned expansion of the Port of Hastings”.
“The department briefed the Napthine government in 2011 to say that Bay West had ‘significant potential advantages’ that warranted its investigation as a potential port location.”
Ms Hutchins said the Napthine Government had not released a business plan, detailed costings or environmental impact statement for the proposed expansion of the Port of Hastings.
“The Minister’s own department has provided a range of briefs to the Government that are riddled with contradictions.”
She said that, if elected at the November election, Labor would establish Infrastructure Victoria, an independent body, to investigate the best location for Victoria’s second container port.
“Successful container port sites are dependent on proximity to existing land-side infrastructure, industry needs, environmental impact and capacity to grow with the state’s needs. Labor believes these opportunities lie in the west of Melbourne in the Baywest area.”
A local group campaiging against the Port of Hastings development has asked the State Government for funding so it can conduct its own environmental, economic and social studies into the port’s impact.
Protect Western Port members met Ports Minister David Hodgett, Bass MP Ken Smith and the recently selected Liberal Party candidate for Bass, Brian Paynter, at the opening of a new floating pontoon at Rhyll on Wednesday.
They expressed their concern about the lack of transparency in setting the terms of reference in the tendering process for consultancies engaged by the Port of Hastings Development Authority to report on a range of environmental, economic and social impacts from the proposal. The Government has allocated $110 million for preliminary studies.
PWP chairman Jeff Nottle said the lack of transparency about the studies raised concerns that the specialist reports would be narrow and biased in their findings to tell the port development authority what it wanted to hear.
He handed a letter to Mr Smith stating the group’s formal objection to the port expansion and asking for his help to obtain funding for the group to conduct independent assessments of the economic and environment impact on Phillip Island and Western Port.
In other developments, Phillip Island Nature Parks has agreed in principle to provide independent expertise and information on penguins and seals to the port authority.
A media release from PINP stated that the authority had agreed that any information provided would be made public during the planning process for the project.
PINP is also a key environmental stakeholder on Porticipate (the Port of Hastings stakeholder engagement network).