ANY prospect of a container port being developed at Hastings is likely to be decades away, according to Mornington MP David Morris.
This prediction by Mr Morris follows revelations that the state government has not asked Infrastructure Victoria to investigate the best site for Victoria’s next major port.
Soon after its election in November 2014 the incoming Labor government announced Infrastructure Victoria would assess site for the next port, including one at Bay West, north of Geelong in Port Phillip.
The government withdrew funding for the Port of Hastings Development Authority, causing the loss of many jobs and a cessation of studies necessary for a future port at Hastings.
Mr Morris said the cuts “effectively gutted the Port of Hastings Development Authority”.
He said Port Minister Luke Donellan had told the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee in May last year that the government would “seek independent advice from Infrastructure Victoria about Bay West as an alternative site to Hastings for Victoria’s second container port”.
“Twelve months on and Infrastructure Victoria has spilt the beans that it has not looked at options for Hastings, Bay West, or indeed any other major project in the state,” Mr Morris told The News.
“Donellan told the same hearing that ‘I would also like to see them [Port of Hastings] look at chasing down business in the energy sector, because the Latrobe Valley has enormous brown coal deposits…’
Mr Morris said not referring development of a container port to Infrastructure Victoria “means that not only might the development of a container port [at Hastings] be delayed for decades, there is a real risk that the port will be relegated to bulk status, reduced to handling the sort of cargo not acceptable to other ports”.
A current leaseholder at the Port of Melbourne, International Container Terminal Services, wants to expand capacity at the port.
“The return to taxpayers resulting from the sale of the Port could be increased if we were permitted to act now to expand port capacity,” ICTS spokesperson Gerry Bullon said.
“ICTSI wants to invest in new infrastructure for the Port of Melbourne now, making it more attractive for buyers.
“The Port of Melbourne is Australia’s largest and busiest port and Australia’s most significant trade gateway. Webb Dock will be the most advanced container terminal in the world. We will have the world’s most efficient and reliable container terminal here in Melbourne.”
The government hopes to raise about $6 billion with the privatisation of the Port of Melbourne, with first round bids due 14 June.
At least four consortiums are reportedly lining up for the 50-year lease which the government hopes to finalise by the fourth quarter of the next financial year.
Money from the lease has already been committed by the government to pay for the removal of level crossings and a “rural fund”.