21 July 2015

Page 7

Call for ‘urgent’ talks over port’s future Keith Platt keith@mpnews.com.au MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire is calling for an “urgent meeting” with the state government over the effects of its plans to lease the Port of Melbourne. Under the terms of the lease being considered by the government, it will promise not to allow another competitive port to be built for at least 50 years, effectively ending plans for a container port at Hastings. Instead, the government wants Hastings to be used as a “bulk” port, adding processed brown coal to the existing trade in petroleum products and natural gas. The call for talks by the shire comes after similar concerns raised by Frankston Council. However, while Mornington Peninsula and Frankston councils try to convince the government not to abandon Hastings, the Shire of Bass is arguing from a different perspective. Bass, too, is writing to the government, to stress its opposition to expansion of the port at Hastings. It also plans on making a submission to Infrastructure Victoria (which will investigate options for a new port) outlining the costs to the region’s economy and environment of a container port at Hastings. Mornington Peninsula mayor Cr Bev Colomb last week said expanding the Port of Hastings “has significant employment and economic benefits for the southeast region of Melbourne”. The decision to seek urgent talks with the government was adopted with

little discussion at the council’s meeting Monday 15 July under the “urgent business” part of the meeting. The council’s action comes more than eight months after Labor won government and an election campaign where Labor signalled its preference for the state’s next container port to be built in Port Phillip and not Western Port. Frankston Council – which had billed itself as the logical commercial hub of an expanded port at Hastings – has already expressed its concerns to the government. “A long-term lease will effectively kill off the Port of Hastings expansion for the foreseeable future, and that means killing off a major employment boost in our region,” Frankston mayor Cr Sandra Meyer said (“Frankston lobbying for port at Hastings”, The News, 14/7/15). “In addition, if the Port of Melbourne remains our state’s only major port, further destructive dredging will be necessary at the Port Phillip Heads to cater for larger container ships, potentially having a serious impact on the Mornington Peninsula tourism industry.” Cr Colomb is also opposed to further dredging in Port Phillip and its impact “on our beaches and coastline, the marine environment and sea life”. Neither council appears to acknowledge that dredging is required to establish a major port at Hastings in close proximity to wetlands, which Australia has an international obligation to protect. It has been estimated that a container port at Hastings would require 24 million cubic metres of dredging to pro-

For and against: While Mornington Peninsula and Frankston councils are calling for the state government to develop the Port of Hastings, Bass Coast Shire says enough is enough, and warns a bigger port will be a loss for the environment and the economy. vide access to the estimated 4.5 kilometres of concrete wharves. On Friday Cr Colomb said the shire wanted a “green” port in Western Port, “operating to world-best environmental standards”. “Council has always supported the development of a green port that has no negative impacts on Western Port,” Cr Colomb said. “We have not been consulted or informed about any alternate possible uses of the port, and any such proposals would need to be thoroughly worked through with council’s and the community’s active involvement.” Westernport and Peninsula Protection

Council says in its latest newsletter that dust from processing brown coal for export at Hastings could “disrupt [the existing plants of] Esso and BlueScope and the township of Hastings”. Since coming to power, the Labor government has scaled down the activities of Port of Hastings Development Authority, cutting staff from close to 100 to about 12. The government has instructed those left at the authority to concentrate on increasing opportunities to use Hastings as a “bulk” port. This year Western Port is expected to be used by 50 ships involved in the export and import of bulk petroleum and

liquefied natural gas. While previously reluctant in the absence of a definite plan to comment on the environmental effects of a major port at Hastings, Flinders MP and federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt last month joined fellow Liberal state Opposition Leader Matthew Guy in highlighting the damaging effects of blasting Port Phillip Heads to accommodate larger ships. However, the state government has not suggested blasting to deepen existing shipping channels, and transport experts have repeatedly stated that the world’s largest ships will never be sent to Port Phillip. Continued Page 12.

Mornington News 21 July 2015


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