While the green light has been given to the Port of Melbourne’s channel deepening project by the Victorian planning minister, the fate of the project in Port Phillip Bay will be decided by the Federal Environment Minister after the election, reports the ABC.
The controversial plan to deepen the shipping channels has cleared its biggest hurdle, with the Victorian Government granting planning approval.
The Planning Minister Justin Madden has ordered an independent monitor to oversee the dredging and wants the Port Corporation to enter into a performance bond.
But dredging can not go ahead unless the Federal Environment minister gives it the tick of approval.
Mr Madden says that will not happen until after the election.
"We would expect the decision to be made by the new Government, whichever government that may be and the new minister," he said.
The Victorian Premier John Brumby says there are environmental benefits to dredging Port Phillip Bay,
but opponents say the dredging could stir up toxic chemicals and affect sea grasses, fish stocks and water quality.
Mr Brumby says there will be beneficial spin-offs for the environment.
"This is the largest container port in Australia. 42 per cent of all of the traffic comes through Melbourne. Ships have got bigger and bigger and bigger," he said.
"The old ships, they’re like old cars, shocking in terms of their efficiency. It’s a good thing to have newer, bigger ships."
The Australian Democrats Leader Lyn Allison says the minister should not approve it.
"Effectively this is the Gunns pulp mill of Victoria and it will do irreparable environmental damage to our beautiful Port Phillip Bay," she said.
"So we now call on the Federal Environment minister to find the courage that he wasn’t able to show in Tasmania and to reject this scheme altogether."
Ms Allison says the environmental studies which the Government relied on did not examine whether the dredging would stir up toxic chemicals at the mouth of the bay.
"There is no way that this dredging can be safely done, and not both liberate all of those heavy toxic metals, but also smother the sea grass beds that are around the dredging areas," Ms Allison said.
Environment groups are planning to launch court action against the project.