THE Labor Party is promising a detailed economic study to determine the best site for Melbourne’s next major port if it wins the November election.
“Hastings requires substantial investment in road and rail funding to get goods in and out, and without that additional investment the Nepean Highway and Dandenong Rail corridor will be flooded with trucks and trains 24 hours a day,” the party’s ports spokesperson Natalie Hutchins said.
Ms Hutchins’ comments were included in a statement issued last week after being briefed on the container port being planned by the Port of Hastings Development Authority.
Port Minister David Hodgett said it had taken Ms Hutchins 521 days to visit Hastings since taking on the role of Labor’s ports spokesperson.
He said Labor MPs were divided over the issue and called on the party to unite in support of expanding the Port of Hastings “and abandoning the pie-in-the-sky notion of Bay West, just as they did when they were in government for 11 years”.
“Hopefully after this visit Ms Hutchins will understand why Hastings is the best location for the port expansion and can see the huge potential it has to bring jobs and growth to Hastings and the south eastern suburbs,” Mr Hodgett said.
Ms Hutchins said the state government was spending $110 million on studies to expand the Port of Hastings “despite no business case, no consultation with local residents and no plans for the road and rail investment required to accommodate increased freight traffic”.
A two-year study released this month by Victoria University questioned the viability of transporting containers to Hastings from industries west of Melbourne and said shipping companies would not be sending their largest vessels to Melbourne, negating the need for a deep-water port.
The study said investigations should be made into building another port on the western side of Port Phillip, but not necessarily the Bay West option being promoted by Labor.
“The Hasting port expansion is going to cost an estimated $12 billion and take over 15 years to build, it will have a limited life span and will not service predicted freight volumes by 2050,” Ms Hutchins said.
“A Labor government will establish Infrastructure Victoria to give independent advice on the best site option for a second container port.
Ms Hutchins said an expanded Port of Hastings would lead to 4000 trucks daily travelling across the city to Melbourne’s industrial north and west; 140 freight trains “thundering” from Hastings to Tottenham via Richmond, Flinders St and Southern Cross stations; “irreversible damage” to Western Port’s environment; and “untold damage” to Phillip Island’s nature parks and the tourism industry.