Port Phillip Bay:
Ripe for a Dredging?
Greens Oppose Murky Plan for Port Phillip Bay
Senator Siewert, 11th July 2005SOURCE: http://www.greens.org.au/mediacentre/mediareleases/senatorsiewert/110705a
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert today called on the Federal government to block the Victorian government's decision to dredge Port Phillip Bay.
The Victorian government announced a go-ahead for a $32 million trial to dredge the Port Phillip Bay shipping channel, but the plan still needs the approval of the Minister for the Environment and Heritage before it can proceed.
"The dredging of the bay will have significant impact on the fragile eco-system of Port Phillip," Rachel Siewert said.
"The Victorian government is ignoring alternatives and riding rough shot over community opinion."
"The planned "trial" dredging alone will have a huge impact, removing up to 4 million tonnes of rock and sediment from the bay."
"The economics of the project are questionable and the environment questions haven't been answered."
"Ian Campbell needs to use his power under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to save the bay from the Bracks Government's foolhardy decision to go ahead with the dredging."
One of the reasons for the need for dredging is the chemical storage facility at Coode Island which, despite having been engulfed in flames 20 years ago, remains on prime land just minutes from the city:
Coode Island, an almost uninhabited industrial area, is 4 km. west of Melbourne. It was formed in 1886 when canal was cut through the Sandridge swamp to provide a straightened stream for the Yarra River. The boundaries were the canal on the south, the Maribyrnong River on the west and the Yarra meander on the north and east. Its area was 97 ha. It was named after Sir John Coode, an English harbour engineer who was engaged by the Melbourne Harbor Trust to select the optimum route for the canal as part of the Port of Melbourne.SOURCE: http://www.arts.monash.edu.au/ncas/multimedia/gazetteer/list/coodeis.html
Coode chose the canal route so as to avoid dangerous tidal ebbs and inflows that would occur along one that went straight from the Yarra River docks to Hobsons Bay. Inflows endangered flood-prone land upstream as far as Gardiners Creek, by the banking up of stream waters. The route also ensured that the Yarra waters would discharge into the river mouth, scouring the bay and reducing silt deposition.
The meander was known as Fishermens Bend or Humbug Reach (1887). Later "Fishermens Bend" came to be applied to the land opposite Coode Island, on the other side of the canal, and even to Sandridge Beach, Port Melbourne west, which became Garden City.
By 1909 the marshy surface of Coode Island was being filled for reclamation. Its chief use was as a quarantine station for stock, and buildings were erected there in the event of the need for a bubonic plague sanitarium. Much of the native vegetation had been replaced by exotics, probably from abandoned ships' ballast. By the late 1930s the meander was almost abolished and the "island" joined to West Melbourne, but the name continued to be used.
In 1929 the construction of Appleton Dock on the south-east corner of Coode Island was begun. Swanson Dock was excavated out of the island near its south-west corner when containerized cargo services began in the 1960s. MacKenzie Road was constructed southwards, west of Swanson Dock, and bulk petro-chemical storage tanks were built along it, beginning in 1960. The liquids were unloaded from Maribyrnong No. 1 berth on the western bank of Coode Island.
In 1990-1 about 70% of liquid chemicals through the Port of Melbourne went through Coode Island. On 21-2 August, 1991, fire broke out at a liquid tank storage facilities, destroying or severely damaging 27 tanks. The event provoked a review of the facilities, leading to proposals for its transfer from metropolitan Melbourne. Six years afterwards a new site was not agreed, but in the meantime improved safety measure had lessened anxiety about future risks.
Coode Island also has transport companies, cargo storage, bulk (non-liquid) storages and port facilities.
Going over the Westgate Bridge, it's clear what an utter waste the current Coode Island arrangement is. The facilities are sitting on what is potentially some of Melbourne's best real estate - just minutes from the city, within walking distance of Docklands, at the junction of the Maribyrnong and Yarra Rivers, and across the Yarra to its mouth at Port Phillip Bay. Moving such facilities and decontaminating the soil in the area would open the area up either for prime parkland, or an exciting real estate and commercial hub - or both. Such a development would bring about tremendous benefits for residents of surrounding suburbs, like Footscray, Yarraville, and Port Melbourne; ushering in a revitalisation of many areas of those suburbs. Freeing up land for such uses at Coode Island would create a new inner-city suburb, and thus (in the short to medium term) take some of the pressure off urban sprawl along Melbourne's outer-fringes.
It is now difficult to imagine that Jolimont, Garden City, Southbank, and the Docklands were, as recently as a decade ago, home to delapidated shipping, rail, and transport yards; somewhat similar to those now at Coode Island. Today, the development of those areas has contributed to the livability of Melbourne, and we all benefit as a result. It's time that the politicians had similar vision in regard to Coode Island. Further dredging of Port Phillip Bay will only serve to perpetuate these facilities.