Regarding recent local press publicity from the Minister for Ports David Hodgett, “Must go ahead with Hastings Port” and Minister for Tourism, Louise Asher, “Tourism generates 5000 local (Phillip Island) jobs”.
Anybody reading the above two articles/letters would be forgiven for wondering if the Napthine Government has any idea about where Western Port Bay and its surrounding tourism mega money spinners fit in to the greater overall benefit for all Victorians, but especially those who rely on tourism dollars for their wellbeing in areas such as the eastern side of the Mornington Pensinsula , the north end of the Bay in towns like Tooradin and Koo Wee Rup, all the way around to of course, to San Remo and Phillip Island.
Given many tourists use Phillip Island’s famous penguins, seals and koalas as a stopping point on the way to other wonderful Victorian tourism assets such as Wilsons Prom, a substantial proportion of the tourism dollar figures quoted by Ms Asher for regions such as Gippsland, (read towns like Wonthaggi, Inverloch, Korumburra, et al) and part of the Mornington Peninsula can be added to the Phillip Island figures.
The latter quotes the 5000 jobs referred to above, plus $619m to the local economy and in percentage terms at 40 per cent, a State topping dependency on tourism as the main generator of Gross Regional Product.
Add a largish chunk of the Gippsland and Mornington Peninsula to the Bass Coast/Phillip Is figures and a billion dollar tourism benefit is not out of the question.
No wonder Ms Asher enthuses, ”The Victorian Coalition Government is committed to ensuring regional Victoria continues to share in the benefits of tourism growth across Victoria”. Then we come to Minister Hodgetts and “Must go ahead with Hastings Port”.
This article can be summarized by stating that despite Ms Asher’s statements, the Napthine Government is hell bent on destroying the vital tourism based economies referred to above, simply because to create the 3,000 ships/9 million containers per annum size port they envisage, Western Port Bay will have to be dredged out of tourism/recreational existence.
The Federal Minister for the Environment, The Hon Greg Hunt, has publicly stated that studies have proved that dredging the Port Phillip Channel has contributed to wrecking the beaches at Rosebud/Sorrento/Portsea, so add in Western Port’s “coastline killer” tides and we are heading for an environmental and economic disaster, with the prized beaches on Phillip Island’s north coast at Cowes/Ventnor/Silverleaves etc, right in the firing line.
Whilst Mr Hodgett is correct in stating Hastings is a, (somewhat limited), existing deep water port, this only “holds water”, (pun intended), under the existing low level shipping traffic and channel depths.
He states that Sydney and Brisbane have deepened their channels to 16 metres to take the latest container ships, and Victoria therefore must keep pace.
But this statement neglects the fact that the existing Western Channel is only dredged to 14.3m from Cowes up to Hastings and is only a single lane channel at that.
So first up to take the 16 metre ships, we have to dredge the shipping channel from the Nobbies clear up to Hastings and given the amount of shipping traffic envisaged, double the single lane channel.
To this we must then add that, as is widely known, the only existing natural depth in Western Port that would hold one 16 metre draft ship is the anchorage off Cowes.
So to fit the other “2999” in, substantial parts of the bay will have to be dredged.
Any cursory view of the Western Port marine chart will show that at least 75 per cent of the bay is either exposed at low tide or has depths of less than five metres – deep water port?!…. Perhaps… but not for the “in 20 years Hastings will be as big as the humongous Shanghai port” future as envisaged by Napthine and Co.
Mr Hodgett goes to into great detail how he is to spend his $110 million on his port feasibility study on all sorts of goodies, transport studies, bay geological surveys, etc.
Somehow Ms Asher’s Phillip Island/ Gippsland/Mornington Peninsula jobs and tourism figures don’t look like they are getting a mention.
We mere mortal Bass Coasters who know how much our area depends on tourism and recreational fishing and wholeheartedly support our council’s call for an Independent Economic Study, can only wonder why this has been omitted.
Mr Hodgett also talks about how “W”(H)astings, (deliberate typo, ‘cos our Bay will be “W”asted if this monstrosity proceeds), will “generate jobs for Victoria and importantly in Hastings”
So now all has been revealed.
The Napthine Government is more interested in destroying 5000 plus “labour intensive, tourism based jobs”, (Ms Asher’s words, not mine) in Bass Coast/Phillip Island and surrounding areas, for the sake of far fewer semi or fully automated container handling/warehousing jobs in metropolitan Melbourne.
Given another of Ms Asher’s portfolios is Minister for Small Business, we look forward to her justifying the Napthine “W”astings agenda to Bass Coast/Phillip Island small tourism based businesses and given her commitment to “regional Victoria sharing in the benefits of tourism”, how this will occur if the very rationale for their business existence is destroyed.
Perhaps Mr Hodgett and his buddy Mike Lean of the Port Of Hastings Authority, can trot out one of Mr Lean’s fancy powerpoint slides showing a ratio of containers landed to Phillip Island beaches washed away by the faster running tides (caused by the dredging); Fish stocks, penguin, seal and migratory birdlife habitats destroyed, recreational fishing areas lost to dredging and or shipping exclusion zones; Boring container shifting jobs at Hastings versus life-long small Phillip Island tourism businesses going bust etc.
He’s got one for just about everything else, tho’ we have yet to see one that has any semblance of an independent, rational, view of all that is at stake with “W”astings.
Rest assured Mr Napthine, that we who live in and love Bass Coast/Phillip Island will have your wilful negligence of and intention to destroy our wonderful environment at top of our minds when the November state election comes around.
With the announcement this week that Ken Smith will be retiring at that election, we look forward to having the benefit of the views of the new Liberal candidate on the whole “W”astings fiasco.
Bass may have been a safe Liberal seat in the past but if Napthine and co don’t back off, the candidate should not be counting on a long parliamentary career.
Kevin Chambers, The Gurdies