THE Bass Coast Shire Council and community continue to join forces in the fight against a proposed container expansion at Hastings.
Whilst the issue has seemingly disappeared from headlines since the last year’s State Election, campaign collective Preserve Western Port Action Group says it’s far from “off the table”, with a recent hearing into the proposed lease of the Port of Melbourne playing right into the matter.
PWP representatives and three Bass Coast councillors – Crs Phil Wright, Clare Le Serve and Neil Rankine – all travelled to Hastings to speak before the Port of Melbourne Select Committee.
Whilst Mornington Peninsula, Greater Dandenong and Frankston Shire Councils have all lobbied in favour of an expansion at Hastings, Bass Coast wants more information.
Cr Wright said he was surprised at the attitude of other councils when he attended the inquiry.
“I was quite staggered in the progression of their thought pattern, in that they already want to build the Port of Hastings,” he said.
“But the real question is what is the asset life and function of the Port of Melbourne, and I think there are some real questions about what the actual problem is.”
Following a decision at last week’s council meeting, Bass Coast Mayor, Cr Jordan Crugnale, will write to the Ports Minister requesting more information on the asset life and function of the Port of Melbourne and the role a container expansion at Hastings would play in Victoria’s freight network.
Cr Clare Le Serve, who lobbied against the container expansion when she ran as an independent candidate in last year’s election, said: “the reality is that if Hastings is built, it might have a direct impact on our community, our tourism and the natural environment”.
PWP chair Jeff Nottle spoke at the inquiry about the “mythology” that had been bandied about when the proposed expansion became a hot topic in 2013/14.
“Some of the mythology that has arisen is with terms like ‘a natural deep water port’, ‘natural deep water harbour’ and ‘blasting Port Phillip Heads’,” he said, referring to dredging to make way for large ships.
“The Port of Hastings Development Authority has spent a lot of money on hydrodynamic modelling and other things – tens of millions of dollars – and never released anything in relation to dredging.
“It was obviously the elephant in the room.”
Local fisherman and vocal Port of Hastings opponent Kevin Chambers told the Select Committee that strong tides will do untold damage to Western Port’s coastline if heavy dredging eventuated.
Noting that tidal flows in and around Port Phillip Bay are very different to those of Western Port, Mr Chambers said: “The fact is, water really rips through Western Port (and) that would cause most of the problems if you put a container port (in Hastings).”