Groups call for a halt to Port of Hastings expansion plans

Environment and community groups are calling for a halt on plans to significantly expand the Port of Hastings due to the unacceptable risks they pose to Westernport Bay's environmental and recreational values.

"Westernport has remarkable environmental and recreational values right on Melbourne's doorstep," said the Victorian National Parks Association's Marine and Coastal Project Officer Simon Branigan.

"Extensive tracts of seagrass, mangrove and saltmarsh habitats provide nurseries for fish species and important foraging, breeding and roosting habitat for shorebirds and wader birds," he said.

Blue Wedges Coalition spokesperson Jenny Warfe warned the plans could undermine the bay's resilience to climate change.

"Plans to expand the Port of Hastings endanger Westernport's values and reduce the resilience of the bay to the ongoing impacts of climate change," she said.

Download joint community & enviroment groups statment here

"The current port expansion plans include major new and upgraded road and rail transport corridors, significant dredging of the channel, the decimation of 4-6 kilometres of mangroves, and substantial land reclamation.i

"The State Government's plans to export 12 million tonnes of brown coal through Hastings by 2020ii will add further to traffic and pollution, massively increase shipping traffic, and will heighten the risk of contaminant spills including oil in an area known to be extremely vulnerable to spills," she said.

The Westernport and Peninsula Protection Council's Karri Giles said the expansion plans could ruin the bay's credentials as a tourist drawcard.

"We also want to stand up for the recreational values of Westernport - swimming, fishing, education, tourism - as well as its environmental values," said Ms Giles.

"Port expansion could tip the balance in Westernport and ruin the very reason why people visit the bay."

"The joint statement by fifteen groups demonstrates considerable support for an urgent and comprehensive assessment of Westernport's values and threats to better inform planning and protection measures - not an ill-conceived port expansion," said Simon Branigan.

The groups call on the Brumby Government and Baillieu Coalition Opposition to commit to:

  1. Halting plans to expand the Port of Hastings due to the unacceptable risk it would pose to the environmental, health and recreational values of Westernport.
  2. Conducting, as a stand-alone process or as part of a broader state-wide review, a comprehensive, independent, science-based assessment. The review would update information on the ecological values of Westernport, the threats to these values, and the way in which those values can be protected and the bay and its catchment used in an ecologically sustainable way.
  3. Including in this assessment comprehensive modelling of oil spill risk and dispersal following and extending on earlier studies.

i Port of Hastings Corporation (2009) Port of Hastings Land Use & Transport Strategy. ii Morton, A (2010) State brown coal export plan revealed, The Age, November 4.

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