LATEST FACTS ON PORT PHILLIP BAY
CHANNEL DEEPENING JANUARY 2008
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The Port of Melbourne Corporation (PoMC) is still asking Victorians to sanction a range of environmental, social and economic risks, so that just a few of the world’s oversized - 14 metre draught container vessels and oil tankers can enter the Bay with a bit more load.
Over 100 sponge species at The Heads occur nowhere else on earth and could be lost FOREVER if this project proceeds. Victorian National Parks Assoc. and Australian Conservation Foundation have recently applied to the Federal government to list these unique species as needing protection from dredging threats.
Penguins, dolphins, seals, sharks, whales and thousands of marine plants and animals interactively rely on Port Phillip Bay. The Bay is a largely enclosed body of water which behaves more like a lake, being extremely shallow (< 8 metres) for most of its 1950 square kilometre area. Its ecosystem relies on high levels of light penetration. High turbidity levels from extended periods of dredging threatens its unique nutrient cycling process which turns nitrogenous waste into Nitrogen – the very air we breathe. Independent scientists advise this delicate balance IS under threat.
Nitrogen balance in the Bay is maintained by Benthic (seafloor) organisms – responsible for our clean clear water. Extensive areas would be smothered, increasing toxic algal bloom risks.
20,000 Phillip Island penguins rely on Port Philip Bay for winter feeding. Their diet is mainly anchovy which spawn in the Yarra mouth. Extensive Yarra dredging will affect anchovy survival. The Phillip Is. penguin parade is reportedly Victoria’s largest tourism earner and would suffer if penguins starve.
Internationally significant RAMSAR wetlands and coastline are at greater risk from the interaction of global warming and project related sea-level rise.
TOXICANT RISKS AND HUMAN HEALTH
Inadequate data provided on toxicant risk. Almost 4 million m3 of Yarra sediments containing heavy metals such as Cadmium, Mercury, Zinc, Lead and Arsenic and Ammonia would be dumped in the Bay with contaminants likely to re-enter the food chain. Risks to HUMAN HEALTH from swimming and consuming fish from the Bay have been understated, as have risks to other Bay species. Additional data was not presented in the SEES public exhibition or submission periods or acknowledged by the 2007 Inquiry.
Water quality, human health and social impacts data, relied on The Hale Report. That data was collected during a minor back-hoe dredging operation – NOT a major suction dredge operation as proposed by PoMC. None of the sampling locations were in the Yarra. The Yarra is the most toxic area and would be dredged extensively. The Hale Report was not available during the public exhibition period and was only made available to Blue Wedges during the Inquiry and after specific and formal request.
Risks to benthic fauna have been underestimated. The Benthic Fauna report was only made available AFTER Blue Wedges toxicity team had presented to Inquiry and the submission periods had closed. The report reveals a link between contaminant levels and reduced marine plants and animals. In particular, high levels of TBT and PAH (compounds linked to genetic mutation and cancers) were associated with reduced species abundance. Despite implications for effects of the toxins on marine and human life, the Study overlooked this association.
Potential for leaching of toxicants has been underestimated. The Bioaccumulation Study was not available during public exhibition or submission periods. The study sampled mussels from the south of the Bay for contaminants, took them to points around the Northern Dredged Material Ground (DMG), left them for six weeks, then retested for contamination by toxins from dredged material. The Report states: “There was a significant increase in the concentration of mercury in all transplanted mussels following the 6 week deployment”. It is reasonable to conclude therefore that mercury contained within the Dredged material is bioavailable and does bioaccumulate in the Port Philip Bay environment.
And: “Concentrations of lead were significantly higher along the northern axis”. It is reasonable to conclude that, because lead is also bioavailable, the lead found at the DMG can and will bioaccumulate in mussels in the Port Phillip Bay environment.
And: “Cadmium concentrations in the transplanted mussels were generally higher than background" and were “above maximum permissible” levels at two sites. It is reasonable to conclude that since cadmium is bio-available it can and will bio-accumulate in the Port Philip Bay environment. Likewise, these effects have not been properly examined due to the failure to exhibit this document
NO ECONOMIC JUSTIFICATION
The Port does NOT support 80,000 jobs. This was proven wrong during the 2004 EES Panel Hearing. The 2007 SEES claims 13,748 direct and indirect jobs rely on the Port. There is NO evidence that ANY of these jobs are threatened. PriceWaterhouse Coopers 2007 study of the Port predicts trade will quadruple by 2035 regardless of channel deepening. There should be plenty MORE jobs, not less! Unfortunately PoMC and its supporters regularly chose to rely on erroneous data in their promotional activities.
No rigorous analysis on how many jobs in tourism, fishing, diving and their support industries ARE threatened if channel deepening does proceed – although it is estimated to be at least equivalent to the jobs attributed to the Port. According to VRFish, Victoria’s peak angling body, recreational fishing in Port Phillip Bay contributes ~$1 billion per year, more than 10 times what government hopes that Channel Deepening would produce annually! PoMC admits fish stocks will be affected for a number of years. Less fish means less food for penguins, seals, dolphins, whales etc. and less revenue from fishing and its support industries.
Bay related tourism provides ~$1 billion benefits p.a. in a growing and sustainable industry - and that's just the Mornington Peninsula! Channel deepening could have a net negative impact on the Victorian economy through threats to sustainable recreational and commercial diving, fishing and Bay wide tourism.
PoMC data on projected deeper draught ship arrivals needs better scrutiny. Contrary to various claims made by the PoMC that somewhere between 25% and 40% of ships cannot “load to capacity”, in 2006 a mere 2% of total container ship visits even used tide assistance. Only 0.8% of total were ships exiting the Bay – presumably with at least some export cargo. Although almost 30% of ships were designed to draw more than 11.6 metres draught if required, only 2% were required to. The claim that channel deepening is necessary to protect our export markets simply does not stack up, and our exports can be easily accommodated on present sized vessels.
PoMC’s BEST estimate is that channel deepening would provide approximately $1.9 billion benefits by 2035. That is ONLY around $70 million per annum - similar to the annual value of JUST the Dive Industry in Port Phillip Bay. Benefits that channel deepening MIGHT provide over 27 years are much less than our current sustainable Bay related industries ALREADY DO provide every year.
Essential services under the Yarra near Westgate Bridge would be re-located ($$$) so bigger ships can travel as far as Bolte Bridge. Melbourne’s Main trunk Sewer willbe capped NOT lowered. Ships would have to be tugged over the sewer main, approx. 50 cm below the riverbed. Grounding/anchor strike could cause raw sewage to enter Yarra.
Both Federal and State approvals relied on PoMC marketing material instead of independent research into future trends in shipping to and from Melbourne and worldwide. Should we be locked into present shipping practices in light of likely future changes in oil and other resources that currently drive our economy?
LET’S COME UP WITH A BETTER SOLUTION!
 ‘Minor Maintenance Dredging Campaign. Water Quality Monitoring in the Dredge and Disposal Plumes’ Hale. J. 2006. December 2006.
 Baseline Benthic Fauna Surveys for the Port of Melbourne DMG, SE DMG and Yarra River Estuary. SKM Sept 2006
 Bioaccumulation Study. Sinclair Knight Merz. April 2006
 p 25 Bioaccumulation study
 p 25 Bioaccumulation study
 p 13 Bioaccumulation study