Visitor Backlash to Container Port - The Phillip Island Advertiser 13/1/16

The Preserve Western Port Action Group (PWP) took advantage this weekend to set up their information stall on the Cowes Foreshore last Saturday.  Members of the action group also took the opportunity to randomly survey people passing by.

The members asked the public about their knowledge of the concept of building an interantional container terminal in Western Port. Of the 32 groups of people surveyed, 50 per cent of respondents were unaware of the proposed development.

The public were also asked of their knowledge of 6,000 container ships passing the Cowes foreshore every year and the fact that anchorage for the ships is only 100meters from the beaches of Cowes.

The public were then asked if the presence of the ships would deter the people from choosing Phillip Island as a future holiday destination. Overwhelmingly 75% of those surveyed responded that they would not choose Phillip Island and surrounding region for a holiday if the development were to occur.

In reviewing the responses the chairman of the action group Jeff Nottle stated;"The responses from this initial survey should send shockwaves to the tourism industry,local businesses and land owners.

"The responses indicated that 75% of people would not choose to visit the Phillip Island region if the container terminal is built in Western port. In 2012-2013 tourism contributed $653 million to the Phillip Island (Bass Coast Shire) economy.  37.9 percent of gross regional product, employed 5700 people (38.2% of regional employment)."

"Late last year PWP appeared at the Parliamentary Inquiry into the proposed lease of the Port of Melbourne.  Group secretary Kate Whittaker advised parliamentary members;

"...Phillip Island it is seen as being a natural, eco type tourism place.  I think having a very large container port with what has been propertied to be 8-10 container ships off the beaches of Cowes and withon Western Port per day, makes the nature and ecotourism lack credibility, because it becomes not a place of nature but rather a place of industry.  To me it just makes the whole tourism side of the bay lack credibility and authenticity."

Jeff Nottle added; "further detailed research and surveys need to be undertaken to establish the size of the impact to the regions employment, visitor numbers, business conferences and local real state."

Mr Nottle said the group is made up of volunteers and welcomes assistance from the community, tourism sector and businesses.