The Port is still on the Table...The Threat has not gone away!

The possibility of a State Government industrialising Westernport and building a container port at Hastings is still 100% “On the Table” and our community needs to be aware that this can happen. Media commentary around the recent port announcements by the Government has sent mixed messages to the community. Stated Jeff Nottle Chairman. 

Mr Luke Donnellan, Minister for Ports made the Hastings container port option perfectly clear at the Public accounts and Estimates Committee held in Melbourne on 22 May 2015. 

“Development of the second container port will be demand driven, with timing determined when the port of Melbourne reaches capacity. Government policy is to seek independent advice from Infrastructure Victoria about Bay West as an alternative site to Hastings for Victoria’s second container port.” 

“We will allow Infrastructure Victoria to put together a team to look at Bay West but also continue the work in relation to the Port of Hastings Development Authority. So we will continue to have an assessment process undertaken by Infrastructure Victoria of both options.” 

This ‘demand driven’ approach of the Government to a container port is in stark contrast to the build it and they may come approach of the former LNP Government. Whilst the economic drivers for the huge investment may have changed, the possibility of Hastings being a container port has not. Stated Jeff Nottle 

The Minister also added 

“I think we really need a thorough and rigorous analysis by Infrastructure Victoria - by economists, transport planners and the like - to actually get it right. I think we need to, as much as we can, put it into an independent entity to do it, not to put it into the hands of politicians.” 

“In terms of when we need to make a decision, we would make it during this term.” 

The role of Infrastructure Victoria is central for the decision on the location of a second container port. Detailed submissions will be sought and the Government will then decide and legislate on the location before the next State election. 

The most persuasive arguments put forward by vested interests will win out and the Government is clearly seeking to avoid the political pain of the final decision. 

The motion passed by the Bass Coast Shire Council on 20 May 2015 to ensure that Bass Coast is part of the Infrastructure Victoria considerations is clearly vital for the Bass region’s future. With tourism contributing $653M to the Phillip Island (Bass Coast Shire) economy in 2012-13 representing, 37.9% of gross regional product, employing 5700 people and providing 38.2% of regional employment the adverse impact of a container port could devastate the economy. 

Recreational boating adds a further estimated $500PA to the Westernport economy and helps support many businesses in Bass Coast. Non tourist related visitation to the region together with the existing quality of life and the enjoyment of the environment are not included in these monetary assessments. 

Bass Coast Council has committed to work with key stakeholders including tourism operators and bodies, recreational boating and fishing groups as well as community groups in developing a comprehensive submission to Infrastructure Victoria that provides analysis on the costs to the Bass Coast economy, environment and community. 

Proposed Lease of the Port of Melbourne 

The Port of Melbourne lease Bill was announced by the Premier Daniel Andrews 27 May 2015. The lease Bill is linked to level crossing replacement policy of the Government and contains clauses about length of the lease and obligation of the successful bidder. The Premier stated: 

“The leaseholder will be responsible for maintaining and improving the port’ s operations, delivering efficiencies, boosting competitiveness and ensuring future port development is not compromised.” 

As reported by ABC News reporter Jean Edwards on 27 June: 

“Mr Pallas said he did not believe a second port would be built before Port of Melbourne reached capacity, ‘given the amount of time that would be required to actually establish and develop a port’.
Compensation would not need to be paid if a second port was built after the Port of Melbourne had reached capacity.” 

The Port of Melbourne Bill needs to pass through Parliament and it is expected to be hotly debated in the Upper House. 

The final details of the lease Bill adds to all the other unknowns around the timing of a new container port, including the market demand for more containers; Infrastructure Victoria’s analysis; the changes at the Port of Melbourne that a private investor will bring; what deal the Government will strike with the successful bidder and how potential compensation issues are managed. 

Whilst the timing for the need for another container port is unknown the recommendation to the Government of the location of another container port by Infrastructure Victoria will happen. 

The future location of a container port at Hastings will be known in the next year or two to allow the Government to legislate the decision before the end of their term. 

Mr Luke Donnellan, Minister for Ports told the Public accounts and Estimates Committee on 22 May 2015: 

“...we are expecting the Port of Hastings Development Authority to chase opportunities in bulk to continue to grow the port down there. We think there are good opportunities down there. There are enormous opportunities, obviously, in relation to storage of petroleum, because we are importing so much petroleum now. I would also like to see them look at chasing down business in the energy sector, because the Latrobe Valley has enormous brown coal deposits, gas and so forth.” 

The prospects of brown coal exports will face many obstacles and strident opposition from many business, consumer and environment groups. 

We believe the Government should establish Infrastructure Victoria as soon as possible to provide certainty for Hastings and Bay West. 

Viable alternatives to industrialisation of Westernport exist and the region needs certainty to pursue sustainable developments that support the tourism and recreational boating industries. 

We encourage the community to lobby the State Government with their concerns about a container port at Hastings. 

The threat has not gone away! 

Media Enquiries: Jeff Nottle 0419 158 232