ALMOST four-and-a-half years since it was recommended by the Ports and Environs Advisory Committee, the Victorian Government last week announced the imminent introduction of a new port planning zone for three of Victoria's major ports: Geelong, Hastings and Portland.
Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the creation of a new port zone will provide certainty and consistency for port operators, councils and communities, allowing for the development and expansion of port operations while protecting surrounding areas.
"The Victorian Coalition Government has prioritised planning reform and investment to deliver flexibility for port operators and to ensure their competitive advantage both now and into the future," Mr Guy said.
"The Port of Geelong is the second largest port in Victoria and handled 13 million tonnes of cargo last year, with volumes set to increase to around 16.5 million tonnes by 2020. It is an important part of our freight network and an important asset that needs to be prioritised and maximised for bulk trade."
Mr Guy said the new port zone will ensure the City of Geelong and the port operator can get on with the job of planning and developing a regional freight and logistics precinct that Victoria can rely on.
"The Port of Geelong is a major piece of infrastructure for the Victorian economy – the Victorian Regional Channels Authority (VRCA) was appointed as Ports City coordinator in June to manage proposed infrastructure projects for the port, and already a $6 million dredging project has commenced, attracting larger ships and increased trade," he said.
The Minister said the government's integrated approach to planning and infrastructure will bolster competitive advantage through the supply chain, unlock trade growth and benefit Victorians from the regions through to the cities.
The Ports and Environs Advisory Committee was appointed by the Planning Minister in September 2009 to, amongst other matters, determine the adequacy of existing and proposed planning controls applying to the Ports of Hastings, Geelong and Portland.
In its discussion paper in March 2010, the Committee recommended the creation of a new purpose-specific Port Zone to address the deficiencies of the existing planning controls. It also recommended the introduction of a Port Environs Overlay. Whilst the Committee's Terms of Reference did not include a review of the Port of Melbourne's planning controls, it was determined that a Port Zone could also apply to this port.
Amendment VC112 to the Victorian Planning Provisions is due to be gazetted shortly.