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Car shipping to stay in Melbourne

On the waterfront: Melbourne's Webb Dock will be redeveloped, beating out Geelong as the preferred location for the state's shipping hub.

Geelong car-hub proposal rejected in the face of strong auto industry opposition

General News logo3 May 2012

By DAVID HASSALL

THE Victorian government has decided against shifting the state’s car shipment hub to Geelong, instead opting to redevelop the existing Webb Dock West in the Port of Melbourne.

Car importers are believed to have been opposed to the proposed move to Geelong, the state’s second-largest port, which was the subject of a feasibility study announced in February last year.

Ports minister Denis Napthine said yesterday the department of transport had explored the potential of shifting the car trade to Geelong “but found significant issues with the lack of availability of suitable land, concerns regarding the shipping channel and considerable opposition from automotive industry stakeholders”.

“The automotive industry raised a number of serious concerns that would have adversely affected their operations,” said Dr Napthine.

“These concerns include the lack of suitable land at the Port of Geelong which is required to conduct pre-delivery inspections on imported vehicles as well as to consolidate and prepare vehicles for export.

“Access to the shipping channel also proved to be an issue with ships facing delays due to restrictions in windy conditions, coupled with the fact the channel is one-way.

“The automotive industry made it clear that their preference was to relocate to a new location at Webb Dock where there is sufficient land and round-the-clock access for shipping lines.”

Opposition spokesman Tim Pallas did not argue the merits of the decision, but accused the government of giving “false hope” to Geelong, where the move was to have injected $200 million into the economy and created 1000 jobs.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries welcomed the decision to consolidate the automotive import and export trade by relocating it within the Port of Melbourne to the newly redeveloped Webb Dock West.

FCAI chief executive Ian Chalmers said in a statement that it demonstrated the Victorian government’s willingness to find a solution to the relocation of the automotive trade which best met the needs of car importers while providing benefits to the Victorian community.

Webb Dock, including Webb Dock West, will be redeveloped at a cost of $1.2 billion, creating more than 2500 jobs, as outlined in the state Budget handed down on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 5000 retail, service and repair business owners, described the budget as “responsible and restrained”.

VACC executive director David Purchase said it would encourage small business.

“Small business confidence in Victoria is at low ebb and business owners are feeling the pinch in an environment best described as patchy,” said Mr Purchase.

“The Victorian Government needed to demonstrate to small business owners that it is committed to doing what it can to assist small businesses succeed. Our first impression is that small business will be encouraged by this Budget.”

The RACV welcomed the significant commitment to several critical transport projects in the BudgetThese include $15 million to planning for the East-West link from the Eastern Freeway to the Western Ring, $350 million to remove three notorious level crossings at Mitcham Road and Rooks Rd in Mitcham and Springvale Road in Springvale, $156 million for the Dingley Bypass, linking the Dandenong Bypass and the Dingley Arterial, and $49 million on the Narre Warren-Cranbourne Rd duplication between Pound Rd and Thompson Rd.

“The East-West link is a major project that will alleviate the massive congestion at the end of the Eastern Freeway and on both east-west and north-south roads in the extensive area north of the city,” said RACV general manager public policy Brian Negus.

“Too often we see Melbourne grind to a halt because of our reliance on the Monash-Westgate corridor, which is Melbourne’s only major cross-town route, and this project will help that situation.

“RACV would urge the federal government to support the state government in rolling out both essential projects by committing funds in next week’s Federal Budget.”

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