Sunday, January 27, 2008

Anti-dredge protesters launch new battle - The Age - 24th January 2008

A second Federal Court battle is looming as Melbourne's anti-dredging campaigners make a last-ditch attempt to stop the Port Phillip Bay channel deepening project.

The Blue Wedges Coalition is preparing an application to have federal approval for the $969 million project quashed.

The application is expected to be lodged in the next two days, a week before dredging of Port Phillip Bay is set to begin.

But the Port of Melbourne Corporation (PoMC) is confident the challenge will fail.

The court action is based on federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett's 15-page statement of reasons for approving the project.

Blue Wedges will use the new document to argue that the approval is invalid because the minister:

* Did not fully consider the social impacts of dredging, including on recreational fishing and swimmers.

* Failed to notify federal Climate Change Minister Penny Wong that the project would raise water levels.

* Did not consider that the port breached its own environmental management plan during the trial deepening by continuing to dredge despite causing 20-metre rockfalls.

Blue Wedges president Jenny Warfe said they had consulted a QC who advised that their case was sound.

The group lost a similar application in the Federal Court last week.

"Our advice yesterday was that we have reasonable chance of success," Ms Warfe said.

"Based on that, we're happy to go ahead because we are committed to this project not going ahead because of it's economic and social risks and environmental risks."

PoMC chief executive Stephen Bradford could not comment on the case on Thursday because the application had yet to be lodged.

However, he said Justice Peter Heerey got it right last week when he ruled Mr Garrett's approval for the project lawful.

"This is not a new tactic by Blue Wedges, this is the third legal attempt they've had to either stop the trial or the full dredging project," Mr Bradford said.

"Both of those (previous) matters were heard in a day and both were dismissed.

"We believe the port has all the requisite approvals, we value Port Phillip Bay as much as anybody and the environmental management planning controls for this critical project will be the strictest ever to apply in a dredging project anywhere else in the world."

Blue Wedges hopes to have a preliminary hearing in the Federal Court early next week.

The matter is highly unlikely to be finalised before dredging is due to start on Friday next week.

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