Don't be fooled by the Port!

The Port of Melbourne Corporation’s Supplementary Environmental Effects Statement (SEES) summary document is inadequate and misleading, and should not be relied upon to form a view about their proposed Channel Deepening project.

“Unfortunately the PoMC is promoting the Summary document as a great way to access SEES information, when it is not. Many people who have not got the time to read the main documents run the risk of making a submission to the panel of inquiry based on inadequate or wrong information" warns Blue Wedges President Jenny Warfe. Page Three of the Summary document states that access to the Port of Melbourne is currently restricted to vessels of maximum draught of 11.6 m or 12.1 m at high tide and this is a restraint on larger ships. The implication is that large volumes of shipping will be turned away. The SEES Main Report Chapter 6 however shows that less than 5 per cent of ships entering and leaving the bay used tidal assistance in 2005-2006. The actual data suggests there is no urgent problem, and figures regularly touted by the Port in the media are wildly different to reality.

Pages Seven and Thirteen state the declared channel depths the PoMC wants in various locations: 17 metres for The Heads and 14.6 metres in the Yarra. But the Main Report shows actual channel depths proposed - the construction depths - are considerably deeper. The Great Ship Channel at The Heads would be deepened to over 19 metres, and the Yarra to over 16 metres. It is the construction depth that is most relevant to environmental assessment.

Page 8 of the Summary Report says that service infrastructure under the Yarra which obstructs channel deepening will be physically protected or decommissioned. In fact some services will have to be moved, involving a commercial agreement, as the Main Report notes. What’s more, the main trunk sewer from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs a 3.1 metre diameter pipe carrying perhaps 40% of Melbourne’s daily sewerage to Werribee treatment plant currently sits 2.1 to 2.7 metres below the Yarra bed. It would have its cover reduced by at least one half if the Yarra is deepened and deeper draught vessels would be perilously close to the sewer.

Page Twenty-four of the Summary Report states that contaminant concentrations in the water are not predicted to cause adverse ecological or human health effects. But the EPA has recently issued a warning about consuming fish from the Yarra Channel because of toxic contamination.

Table Two on page Twenty-eight of the Summary Report states that the Grey Nurse Shark (protected under State and Federal Environmental law) has never been reported in Port Phillip Bay. Visitors to Melbourne Museum however can see a set of Grey Nurse Shark jaws labelled as coming from Port Phillip Bay.

The Summary Report concludes that the channel deepening project is crucial infrastructure development.

“That’s hardly a detached observation in a document that purports to be setting some kind of objective appraisal. We suggest that the public reads more widely than the information produced by the PoMC, which is really their business plan for the future of the Port”.

“The SEES is not an objective piece of research about the future of the Port, Melbourne or Port Phillip Bay and the jobs, lifestyles and species that rely on it – it is the subjective restricted appraisal undertaken by the Corporation who is staking a claim for control of the bay. Something which we should be very wary of” says Ms. Warfe.

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