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Report on Channel Deepening Focus Group Meeting

 

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Beaumaris Conservation Society Inc. was invited to be represented at a Focus Group meeting in Brighton on Tuesday, 12th September 2006, and was represented by its President, Adrian Cerbasi, and its Treasurer, Geoffrey Goode. The meeting was chaired by an independent facilitator, Michael Henry.

 

Other organizations and interests represented were: a yachting association, and the operator of a small fishing and tourist boating business, each of whom was based in northern Port Phillip; Brighton Bathing Box Association Inc, the Sandringham Anglers Club, the Bird Observers Club, Marine Care Ricketts Point Inc, and the Port of Melbourne Corporation.

 

SPOIL VOLUME AND EFFECTS: A major concern that emerged from nearly all those present was the nature, scale and somewhat uncertain short and long-term effects of the huge volumes of spoil proposed to be dumped on the bay floor. The Bird Observers Club representative expressed concern about the impact of both short and long-term turbidity and disturbance of toxic sea-bed materials in northern Port Phillip on the large penguin populations there.

 

ALTERNATIVES: Speakers saw merit in alternatives such as:

  • limiting the size of ships entering Port Phillip, thus joining other ports with similar constraints and maintaining a market demand for medium-size ships to be built, it being a principle of the free market that demand creates supply,
  • a mixed transport system, with greater reliance on medium-sized ships, rail transport, and decentralized port facilities either at Western Port, Portland, other States with natural deep water harbours, or a mixture of those options, and
  • overcoming the petty State-based parochial attitude that insists, possibly against the national interest, that Melbourne should forever remain Australia’s largest container port, even though the centre of gravity of the Australian population is steadily moving northwards at about one kilometre per year.

 

IMPLICATIONS FOR DEPTHS BEYOND 2030: Speakers were aware how long term growth trends persist once they are allowed free rein, and were dissatisfied with the lack of any credible official refutation of the valid charge that Port Phillip will be faced with further deepening – compounding the environmental damage already done – when still larger ships are likely to be proposed around 2030.

 

POLITICAL OBSERVATION: The representative of Sandringham Anglers made the comment that Labor voters he has spoken to tend to support channel deepening on the ground that it would be good for employment prospects, whereas Liberal voters are opposed to it because of the damage it will do to the Bay.

 

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