AN abrupt about turn by Frankston councillors withdrawing support for a container port at Hastings has plunged council into troubled waters.
The Frankston and Mornington Peninsula Shire councils previously officially supported the establishment of a port at Hastings by a state government potentially decades from now.
A second container port to service the Melbourne area will be needed when the Port of Melbourne reaches capacity.
Councillors at the Frankston council meeting on 1 May voted to oppose the establishment of a port at Hastings after Cr Quinn McCormack urged fellow elected representatives to oppose any dredging or deepening in the Ramsar-listed Western Port Bay to protect marine life, seagrass and tourism business.
A 6-2 vote by councillors saw Frankston Council’s previous official policy stance, reiterated at April’s public meeting, support a port at Hastings instead of an alternative proposal to build a second container port servicing Melbourne at Geelong’s Bay West.
Councillors at the April meeting voted 5-4 to support a port at Hastings.
“Western Port supports thousands of species of marine animals including colonies of penguins and Australian fur seals,” Cr McCormack said.
Oil spills and ship groundings due to “navigational errors” were also flagged by Cr McCormack as dangers to Western Port Bay’s “marine ecosystem”.
She noted there would be 47 million cubic metres dredged at Western Port Bay, “more than double what happened in Port Phillip Bay”.
“Portsea beach is now sandbagged as a result of the dredging of Port Phillip Bay,” Cr McCormack said.
Crs Glenn Aitken, Kris Bolam, McCormack, Sandra Mayer, Lillian O’Connor and Steve Toms voted last week to oppose a port at Hastings. The mayor Cr Brian Cunial and Cr Michael O’Reilly supported the port.
Cr Colin Hampton, who was absent from last week’s meeting, voted in support of the port in April.
Crs Kris Bolam and Sandra Mayer changed their view on the port at Hastings between April and May’s vote. The pair backed a Hastings port in April then decided to oppose it weeks later.
The matter will be debated again by Frankston councillors for a third time in as many months at June’s public council meeting.
State Frankston Labor MP Paul Edbrooke said council’s “flip-flop” on the port is “yet another example of Frankston Council wasting ratepayers’ money on their own personal political agendas and not consulting the Frankston community.”