Car Ferry Business Case seriously Flawed #phillipisland #Cowes #carferry

THE Phillip Island Conservation Society has offered a scathing assessment of the business case for the Cowes to Stony Point car ferry, describing it as deeply flawed, while the environmental impacts of the ferry are “simply too great”. 

PICS this week publicly released its submission to the draft business case, which will be voted on at the April 18 Bass Coast Shire meeting at the Phillip Island golf club. 

The submission offers a detailed analysis of the environmental, economic and social impacts of the proposed car ferry, concluding the proposal fails on all counts. 

“The proposed car ferry is unlikely to be viable or offer significant benefits, and the potential environmental impacts are unacceptable,” the submission states. 

“The proposed car ferry amounts to an expensive and risky use of public funds—funds that could be better spent on alternatives that embody the (Phillip Island and San Remo) Visitor Economy Strategy vision of sustainable growth, genuinely tackle social disadvantage, and preserve our most valuable tourism asset, our natural environment.” In the submission, PICS urges Bass Coast Shire councillors to reject any final Cowes to Stony Point car ferry business case. 

Economically flawed

Using the draft business case’s figures, the PICS submission offers detailed economic analysis, concluding “the benefits are questionable and over-stated, and the costs and risks are understated”. 

The submission states the draft business case fails to provide answers on a raft of economic measures, including jetty maintenance cost, vessel cost or depreciation, government subsidy necessary to cover the operating shortfall and provide the ferry operator with a reasonable return on capital, while “there is no attempt to place an economic cost on environmental impacts”. 

“The draft business case says the ferry will run at an operating loss for nine years, while the adjacent text says three years. Which is correct?” the submission asks. 

“There is no allowance on downtime due to adverse conditions, maintenance needs or breakdown - the total economic benefit and operating outcome calculations appear to be based only on projected passenger demand and ignore operational capacity to meet this demand. ” The PICS submission says the draft business case offers no evidence to support its claim a car ferry would bring visitors in the off peak season, with the submission citing international research that finds weather and public holidays are the main factors affecting peaks and troughs in tourism on a global scale: “The proposed car ferry will not change these factors”. 

The submission states the travel time savings outlined in draft business case are misleading because they don’t account for the proposed two -hourly service frequency. 

“The Cowes Stony Point car ferry is the only service that will, on average, cost users both time and money. 

“When travel time was raised during the community consultation period, (business case authors) EarthCheck acknowledged the lack of time savings and began to suggest the Cowes Stony Point car ferry would attract patrons be cause it offered a maritime experience. 

“This is an extraordinarily fragile foundation for a business case, particularly when there are superior maritime experiences, such as wildlife cruises, already available on Phillip Island. 

“The bottom line: the benefit cost ratio is too low to justify the car ferry business case and the ferry service is likely to run at a loss over 30 years, requiring a government subsidy to ensure continued operation. ” FEBRUARY Environmentally flawed PICS states the draft business case assessment of environmental impacts is “inadequate”, “simply listing the approval processes that are likely to be required, and concluding the environmental impact is minimal and there is no reason why these approvals would not be granted”. 

“It states that an environmental effects statement referral is unlikely to be required. 

“This simplistic desktop analysis understates potential environmental impacts and risks.” The submission says these risks include:

• Erosion and sand movement that may occur when a new marine structure is constructed, potentially leading to coastal damage and a requirement for maintenance dredging; 

• Impacts on water quality and increased turbidity, leading to adverse impacts on seagrass; 

• Impacts on marine life, including endangered southern right whales, protected under federal environment laws, as well as impacts on the threatened hooded plover at the IS terminal site; and

• Implications of climate change, such as sea level rise and extreme weather events. 

“A car ferry is inappropriate anywhere on Phillip Island because the potential impacts on natural assets, including beaches, foreshore, the marine environment and wildlife are simply too great.”

Socially flawed

The PICS submission undermines the draft business case’s argument that a car ferry would open access to employment, recreational and other opportunities for residents. 

“The proposed car ferry would be prohibitive to use for a regular commute, especially for the socially disadvantaged.” Equally, PICS says the business case’s assertion that a car ferry would offer an alternative evacuation point was flawed. 

“A car ferry will not enhance safety on Phillip Island because it is so limited in the number of vehicles that it can move per hour, and it can only move them from one point. 

“It will never be a credible substitute for appropriate road planning and maintenance or aerial evacuation of critically ill or injured patients.” The draft business case states that the proposed car ferry will have no significant social impacts on recreational facilities or community amenity. 

“To the contrary, construction of a car ferry terminal and jetty is an inappropriate industrialisation of an important north facing beach 300 metres from the centre of Cowes. 

“This is an important beach for safe swimming and sailing, and the only place on the island offering sailing training. The surrounding area is a residential zone.” The submission says PICS welcomes visitors to Phillip Island and supports the Visitor Economy Strategy’s long-term vision of sustainable growth. 

“The key to its delivery is acknowledging that the economy is the environment of Phillip Island and that its natural assets must be protected.” PICS was formed in 1968 to lobby against a proposal that would have negatively impacted Rhyll Inlet.