TWO and half million cubic metres of silt will be dredged from near Webb Dock as part of a $1.2 billion redevelopment of the Port of Melbourne.
The plan, which includes a new container terminal at Webb Dock, also calls for the dredging of 50,000 cubic metres of contaminated material that will be dumped near the centre of Port Phillip Bay, and there will be no environmental impact assessment because the state government says it is not necessary.
In addition to the dredged silt, ‘‘approximately 1.5 hectares of saltmarsh area south of Williamstown Road will be removed”, requiring excavation of land as well as dredging.
Dredging will take place over 38 hectares and a Port of Melbourne referral to the Commonwealth under environment laws said ”recently deposited sediments [silts] will be treated as contaminated and will be placed within the bunded area of the Port of Melbourne Dredged Material Ground, located near the centre of Port Phillip Bay and subsequently capped with clean sand”.
The report to the Commonwealth predicts massive growth in shipping container activity at the port.
While it has taken Melbourne more than 150 years to reach a level where it is processing 2.58 million containers a year, the report predicts this figure will almost double to 5.5 million containers a year by 2025.
The volume of material to be dredged as part of the Webb Dock project is less than 10 per cent of the 23 million cubic metres dredged as part of the recently completed channel deepening project, which was subject to an extensive environmental impact assessment.
The project was also scrutinised by the state government’s Office of the Environmental Monitor, which reported earlier this year all applicable environmental approval conditions had been met.
Others are less convinced the channel deepening project has not had a lasting detrimental impact on the bay. Jenny Warfe from the Blue Wedges coalition of community groups has raised concerns about the impact of the project on Portsea Beach. She said the beach disappeared swiftly in 2009.
”Now, ocean swell regularly pounds the shore. All the shady trees and golden sands have gone – replaced with rocks and a massive sandbag wall. The once picturesque and safe family beach is just a memory,” she said.
”And we have still got a toxic dump in the bay.”
The executive director of the Victorian National Parks Association, Matt Ruchel, said the association preferred port expansion at Webb Dock than expansion in Western Port.
He said if saltmarsh was to be removed as part of the project, it should be offset with new saltmarsh areas at another location in the bay so there was no net loss of marine habitat.
Ports Minister Denis Napthine said there would not be an environmental impact assessment ”because we are following decisions made by the previous Labor government”.
He said former planning minister Justin Madden had written to the Port of Melbourne in 2009 and said Webb Dock expansion did not require an environment effects statement and the project should be dealt with under the Planning and Environment Act.
Dr Napthine said that decision was based on the fact there had been an environment effects statement in the 1990s as part of the original development of Webb Dock.
Dr Napthine said Planning Minister Matthew Guy had recently written to him and reaffirmed the position taken by Mr Madden.
Dr Napthine said the Port of Melbourne was experiencing strong growth and the Webb Dock expansion was necessary.
”We are getting a consistent 6 to 8 per cent compounding growth in trade through the Port of Melbourne,” he said.
Source: smh.com.au, December 10, 2012; Image: Port of Melbourne