Hastings container port ‘will hurt region’

Corangamite Shire mayor Chris O’Connor describes the Port of Portland as a great asset for the region, handling more than six million tonnes in the past year and expecting increasing exports of woodchip and mineral sands

Corangamite Shire mayor Chris O’Connor describes the Port of Portland as a great asset for the region, handling more than six million tonnes in the past year and expecting increasing exports of woodchip and mineral sands

Corangamite’s mayor fears the development of a new container port at Hastings will mean added transport costs for south-west exporters.

Chris O’Connor is calling for the state government to consult more widely on the multi-billion-dollar proposal, saying it has implications for the whole of the south-west.

“Corangamite Shire is the fifth most productive local government area in Australia. The importance of our exports is growing and we need to make sure our producers’ interests are being protected,” Cr O’Connor says.

In a report to council’s monthly meeting tomorrow night, Cr O’Connor outlines the increased pressure on the Port of Melbourne, where tonnage is expected to jump by 100 per cent by 2030 and 200 per cent by 2046.

He says the Napthine government’s decision last year to invest $110 million in the planning and design of new facilities at the Port of Hastings has implications for the shire and the whole of the south-west.

Cr O’Connor describes the Port of Portland as a great asset for the region, handling more than six million tonnes in the past year and expecting increasing exports of woodchip and mineral sands. “However, with no container facility and with a depth of 11 metres, even Portland could not handle the mega-ships of the future without considerable dredging and massive handling and transport investment.”

He says the $1.6 billion expansion of Webb Dock, due for completion in 2016, will go some way towards handling the doubling of containers from 2.5 million to five million in the next 15 years, many of them coming from the south-west.

There are two options for the next expansion — at the Port of Hastings, which is the Coalition’s preferred site, or at a location between Geelong and Melbourne, known as Bay West, favoured by Labor.

Cr O’Connor says although Hastings is a deep-water port, it gets as shallow as six metres and will need considerable dredging to accommodate the world’s largest ships.

“Hastings will also need massive investment into road and rail, including eventually the completion of an outer ring road and link roads down to Eastlink and then down to the port.

“Reports suggest $8 billion of public money will be needed to complete the work and all roads will be tolled. There will (also) be a train link that will come through Flinders Street and South Yarra stations where, according to logistic experts, by 2046 there could be as many as 140 freight trains making their way down through these eastern suburbs every day.”

Cr O’Connor warns that experts have estimated it could cost an extra $400 to transport each container to Hastings instead of the Port of Melbourne.

“Dairy makes up to 10 per cent of the exports out of Melbourne and the south-west is quickly becoming the go-to area for dairy expansion. 

“Our costs to export could increase significantly if the new port is built to the east of Melbourne. We also have increasing meat exports and more and more containers are being used to transport grain, which nearly all comes from the west or north.”

Cr O’Connor says the Bay West option will allow easy access for the 70 per cent of exports which come from the north or west of Melbourne and the road and rail systems are “a much easier fix”.

The biggest obstacle is channel deepening. 

“To make Bay West work, it is expected that at least five times more material would need to be dredged. There would be environmental problems, particularly at the heads, but Hastings has high-value environmental assets and would also be dogged with problems.”

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