THE Preserve Western Port Action Group welcomes the recently released Infrastructure Victoria (IV) discussion paper on the future capacity of ports in Victoria.
The proposed approach, transparency and engagement model adopted by IV to these important issues embraces what we have been calling for since the State Government announced its intention to establish the new entity before the 2014 state election.
Significantly it marks an end to the political rhetoric, vested interests approach adopted by the former Liberal State Government which sought to justify industrialising Western Port with a container port using slogans and a scare campaign. Gone are the incorrect “natural deep water port” and “blasting of the Port Phillip Heads” slogans and the highly criticised “build it and they will come” economic analysis.
The Special Minister of State has formally requested IV to provide advice by May 2017 on if and when we need to build a second container port; and whether a second port should be located at Bay West (in Port Phillip Bay, between Werribee and Geelong) or at Hastings.
IV will consider environmental, economic and social impacts in preparing their advice and recommend a range of years in which they think extra capacity may be required. The paper recognises that there is considerable debate around future growth rates of container trade, capacity of existing ports and the size of container ships that are likely to visit Victorian ports. Changing consumption patterns and new technology like 3D printing will influence future demand for containers and ports capacity. As a result different demand and capacity scenarios will be developed.
IV has also recognised that maximising the capacity of existing ports will ensure that a second port is built only when it is needed and that increasing capacity before it is required would be financially imprudent.
It assumes that once government has decided to invest in a second container port it is likely to be somewhere between 10-15 years from the time of the decision to an operational port at either the Hastings or Bay West sites. The long lead time is why the issue is being considered now and why we as a community need to be engaged in the process now.
In relation to the location question, IV will examine existing reports and carry out some targeted technical studies to fill in the knowledge gaps. We believe the studies should include the impact on erosion and inundation following the required dredging on the Western Port coastlines and in particular the impact of further erosion on the north shore of Phillip Island. Impacts on tourism, penguins, employment, recreational fishing and boating as well as amenity of Westernport also need to be considered.
The Preserve Western Port Action Group will continue to research and prepare submissions to IV and to be further engaged in the consultation phase. In this initial phase of engagement, stakeholders and residents can visit Infrastructure Victoria to:
Information gathered in 2016 will be incorporated into a report presenting Infrastructure Victoria’s evidence base, which will be released for another phase of engagement in early 2017.
Jeff Nottle is chairman of the Preserve Western Port Action Group.