port-of-call-draws-fewPort of Hastings Development Authority’s acting CEO Eric Shegog answered questions raised by Neil and Jill Daly from Corinella. Jill said she was particularly concerned about the proposed port’s impact on the environment. G064114

By Gav Ross

DESPITE a massive groundswell in community opposition to the proposed Port of Hastings project, hardly anyone turned up to an official community information session in Grantville.
Halfway through the three hour session last Thursday afternoon, only six people had wandered in and out of Grantville Hall, leaving the half dozen Port of Hastings Development Authority (PHDA) team members in attendance twiddling their thumbs.
Blame it on the location, time of day or advertising, but it gave off the vibe that people in the Waterline area and surrounds perhaps aren’t as interested or concerned about the container expansion as others elsewhere in the region.
It was the first PHDA information session in Bass Coast since last November, when a far larger number of (mostly concerned) people attended a session in Cowes.
But a lot has happened since then: the project took a major step forward when it was officially declared under the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act; concerned community members formed the Preserve Westernport Action Group and released their own detailed discussion paper; and the PHDA completed its initial round of marine and land geotechnical surveys.
It has also continued to morph into a major state election issue, with Ports Minister David Hodgett squaring off in a debate against Shadow Ports Minister Natalie Hutchins at Geelong last week and Hastings just last night (Monday).
But all that seemed a world away in Grantville last Thursday, where there were far more people attending tennis training on nearby courts than venturing into the hall.
PHDA’s executive director of port development and acting CEO, Eric Shegog, said the decision to host a session in Grantville was all about creating an additional opportunity for people to drop by.
“You never know what to expect,” he said.
“Last night we held a session in Tyabb and around 50 people attended.”
Mr Shegog confirmed the few people who did filter into the hall at Grantville were mostly asking questions about dredging.
“They were concerned with how dredging could impact the hydrodynamics of the bay – how it will impact beaches in Corinella or Coronet Bay,” he explained.
Mr Shegog’s answer to those queries was that the authority is currently undertaking detailed studies of weather and wave patterns across Western Port.
He said sophisticated instruments testing water levels, tides and sediment quality are already collecting data.
Wave data is being collected by a buoy located between four and five kilometres south of Phillip Island, while two other instruments will be placed in the shipping channel to the north of Cowes and Ventnor.
Data will also be collected in water between the mainland and Newhaven.
Earlier this year, the sight of jack-up barges, used to collect marine samples, was hard to miss from Cowes.
Mr Shegog confirmed locals and holiday makers will not be seeing these platforms from Cowes this summer.
“We certainly won’t be doing a program in the next 12 months,” he said.
“When it is determined where the port will likely be, we may come back to do (further) detailed geotechnical studies.
“But that’s quite a way off.”
Coronet Bay resident Bruce Cameron said he probably wouldn’t have gone to this week’s session in Cowes if it was the only one, so he appreciated the authority chose to stop off at Grantville for a few hours.
“I thought it was good,” he reported.
“There was lots of information and the people there were more than happy to answer all my questions, they didn’t shirk them.”
Bruce said his questions touched on the impact of dredging, along with how much port land is available when and if building commences.
If you missed out on the Grantville drop-in session, there is one more today (Tuesday, October 14) at Phillip Island RSL in Cowes from 4pm to 7pm.