THE Victorian Labor Party has rejected more than six years of planning for an expanded Port of Hastings.
Last week it released a jobs and investment strategy dumping its support of Hastings in favour of the so-called “Bay West” option, a new port proposed for the western side of Port Phillip between Geelong and Werribee.
The decision is a massive about-face as the ALP proposed building a three-stage port at Hastings when it was in government.
Hastings Liberal MP Neale Burgess said “Labor has abandoned more than 40 years of bipartisan support for the Port of Hastings, deserted the people of the Western Port community and managed a complete backflip on the position it argued in government for 11 years”.
“The Western Port community and Victorians have been waiting for the jobs that will flow from the development of the Port of Hastings for more than 40 years and Mr Pallas and his Labor mates would be prepared to again sell those hopes out for political gain,” he said.
Since losing to the Liberal-National Coalition in late 2010, Labor had continued to back a container port at Hastings, calling on the Baillieu government to fast-track its development.
Now the ALP says the plan to develop Hastings is badly flawed, but all of the work done between 2006 and 2010 was by the Labor government.
It is an incomprehensible decision as it was under Labor that the then Port of Hastings Corporation and its consultants prepared a land use and transport strategy in 2006.
Now the ALP says an expanded Hastings port would fail to cope with an expected seven-fold increase in container trade by 2050.
Labor’s jobs and investment strategy states it would cost about $12.5 billion to develop Hastings over 15 years.
In 2007 then Ports Minister Tim Pallas said it would cost $5.7 billion to expand the port and build transport links over the next 25 years.
He trumpeted the benefits for the southeast, Frankston and Mornington Peninsula regions, saying a new port would create more than 4000 local jobs and inject $1 billion into the region’s economy.
“By 2015, when primary school children from areas such as Casey, Cardinia and the Mornington Peninsula are ready to enter the workforce, the Port of Hastings will generate almost 2000 jobs in Mornington Peninsula Shire alone,” he said.
Politicians, government departments and the business community have been debating the relative benefits of Bay West and Hastings for many months.
It was reported recently the state Department of Transport had concluded the Bay West option offered “significant potential advantages”, including ample land, “almost unlimited potential berth capacity” and proximity to Avalon Airport.
Some parts of the business community are leaning toward the Bay West option, saying it would reduce the number of trucks on roads, and is closer to the standard gauge national rail freight network as well as freight and logistics centres in Melbourne’s west.
Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews reportedly said the Baillieu government’s plan for Hastings was “potentially wasteful and shortsighted”, and the Bay West plan could cost half as much.
A comprehensive and transparent cost-benefit analysis needed to be undertaken to test how Bay West compared with other possible sites, including Hastings, he said. Many factors supported Bay West as the appropriate site for Melbourne’s second port.
Meanwhile, the Port of Hastings Development Authority, formed at the start of 2012 to replace Port of Hastings Corporation, is pressing ahead on planning for Victoria’s second port at Hastings.
Last week it moved to larger offices in Hastings and is hiring six staff including a chief finance officer, a manager of strategic and business planning, and a manager of engineering services and project management.
It has hired consultants to prepare three studies:
– A hydrodynamic model of Western Port that will show tides and currents, and potential impacts of port development on the environment.
– An ecological risk management assessment.
– An assessment of different port designs.
Environmental lobby groups have consistently called for studies that will assess:
How an expanded port will affect the environment including Western Port’s internationally recognised wetlands and shoreline.
The effect on tourism, recreational boating and fishing, and marine education.
The cost to the health system of illness caused by port-related transport corridor noise and air pollution, sleep deprivation and respiratory illnesses.
The economic impact of carbon emissions produced by the port development.