Dredging unlikely, no land acquisition

A DRAFT of the business case for a car ferry between Cowes and Stony Point has been released, working to resolve concerns around the location of the terminal on Phillip Island and the environment.
The draft states a ferry – if it gets the green light – will complete 10 sailings each day between Stony Point and Cowes (five in each direction) with the capacity to expand to 14 sailings during peak holiday periods.
The 74-page draft was released at 5pm on Friday by consultants EarthCheck; who were paid $250,000 to create the business case.
The ferry is also expected to carry around 30 cars, two coaches or articulated trucks, and up to 300 passengers.
At a closed media briefing last Thursday, Bass Coast Shire Mayor Pamela Rothfield expressed her interest in ensuring any discussion around the car ferry was based on facts.
It follows a protest at the Anderson Road Boat Ramp in January, attended by more than 300 people, who were under the impression the ramp was the preferred location for a car ferry terminal.
Two days after the protest, the council confirmed it’s not the preferred site. The consultants say the ideal location is midway between the Cowes Yacht Club and Mussel Rocks.
Mark Olsen, general manager of EarthCheck, said it’s unlikely dredging will occur and the Cowes Yacht Club will not need to be relocated.
He couldn’t promise dredging won’t be required because that decision will be based on future environmental studies – which will include community consultation.
The draft business case, which lists pages of data, alternative locations for the ferry terminal and economic benefits, is up for discussion and the consultants, and the council, want feedback from the community.
Mr Olsen said the touring market on Phillip Island is dominated by Australians.
“It has a small, but lucrative component of international visitors.
“And that touring market predominantly travels in winter and it’s the market that Phillip Island and the Mornington Peninsula are significantly under-represented compared to the Great Ocean Road and the rest of regional Victoria.
“So it’s that market that we have the easiest opportunity to gain growth in.”
The shire’s manager of economic development and tourism, Peter Francis, said there will be benefits for “relatively small change”.
“We’ve already got a ferry coming over bringing people, so in terms of the actual change; it’s not massive because the number of cars isn’t huge,” he said.
“It’s been an evolving process and it will continue to evolve. This isn’t a fixed document – this is where it sits at the moment.”
The total cost of the project is estimated to be $80.3 million. It could funded by the State Government, a ferry company or alike, or both. The council insists there will be no cost to ratepayers.
The draft business case shows it’s viable. Based on the preferred option by the consultants – a car ferry between Stony Point and Cowes – these are some of the key points:
• Up to an extra $8 million in visitor spending annually
• No residential land acquisition required
• Predicted equivalent of between 138 and 172 full-time jobs (including ferry staff, extra accommodation and hospitality employees) in the first year of operation, and rising to between 284 and 353 after 30 years of operation
• Increased visitors during the non-peak periods
• Another way to get cars on and off Phillip Island when the bridge is closed – which has happened nine times between 2012 and 2017.
But there’s still other issues the community’s raised, including environmental impacts and potential impacts on the existing passenger service.
The ferry won’t travel to French Island – that was ruled out early on. There is a passenger ferry from Stony Point to French Island to Cowes Jetty. And Mr Olsen said there will be always be a service to French Island – it’s essential.
The jetty’s likely to include an exclusion zone for vessels, which is often applied from the end of the jetty out to the sea.
They’re usually between 50 and 100 metres but because they go out to sea, are unlikely to impact on people who use the beach.
Other issues include:
• Increased traffic on Phillip Island, including around the car ferry terminal
• Impact on residents near the site, during construction and after
• Desire for unimpeded access to walk along the beach under the jetty
• Landscaping to ‘soften’ the visual impact of the site
• Further environmental studies are needed to address issues, including dredging
There will be a series of drop-in ‘Open House’ information sessions at the Mussel Rocks barbecue area on The Esplanade in Cowes next month on March 11, 12, 13, 19 and 20, from 10am to 4pm.
The final business case will be presented to the Bass Coast Shire Council on April 18.