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HASTINGS retailers desperate for the Port of Hastings to inject an economic boost to the town have been reassured that the port will go ahead.
At a meeting between retailers, Hastings MP Neale Burgess and Tourism Minister Louise Asher, many retailers said they were doing it tough and were relying on future development of the port to keep them afloat.
Western Port Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Lisa Dixon said retailers were facing a hard time and many had already closed, with more than 21 empty shops in Hastings.
Mr Burgess reassured retailers that the port was going ahead. "There is no question that the port is going ahead," he said. "The Port of Melbourne can no longer accommodate future growth. The port of Hastings is integral to the state's growth."
Mr Burgess said he understood the frustration felt by retailers and residents. "It is fair to say this has been going on since the '60s. There will be enormous economic benefits for Hastings when the port is expanded."
Mr Burgess told the Weeky that the independent Port of Hastings Development Authority was under clear instructions to fast-track the port development.
"This development will create 4000 ongoing jobs. That's 4000 incomes to local families who will reinject that money in the are. This is a really exciting time for Western Port."
Mr Burgess said the community would be fully considered and consulted during the process. "This development is for the community for it is vital that they are consulted and allowed to contribute to it."
Ralph Kenyon, acting chief executive officer of the Port of Hastings Development Authority, said the authority was working towards preparing the town for the development.
"The development process is an extensive one and includes environmental assessment and planning and design stages before we even put a design on the table. This planning process will be undertaken over the next three to four years."
Mr Kenyon said the authority was working as hard as it could to meet the state government's timeframe for the port development. "The authority's primary role is to plan for the development of the port and that is what we will be working towards."