Growing up I remember salt prickling my skin,
Azure blue water and an oven like northerly,
Pea soup green easter swells,
Surfing in howling south westerly blizzards at Merricks point,
Walking through the tangled tee tree trunks in the half dark,
Slipping on muddy paths with numb feet,
Koalas unearthly carrying on in the tree in the back yard,
Dolphins surfacing under our surfboards at Pt Leo.
The stench of rotting seaweed when the Balnarring or Somers creek mouths block up,
Threading my car through the network of lonely roads,
Acute angles and straight lines through a tunnel of trees, heading towards the prom.
Tooradin, mudflats, mangroves spikes, tinnies floating way below or banging against moorings at high tide.
Garfishing, an artificial light run off a battery in a tiny boat, forming an otherworldly luminous cone in emerald green water
Snorkelling very rarely and still seeing an eagle ray and stingrays at Merricks.
Seagrass seaweed, piled on the beach to knee height.
The smell of it, the weird lumpy mattress feeling of walking in it, throwing it at my family, my brother stuffing it down my top.
The way it sticks to you and you find it stuck to you after hours and a shower.
Snippets of a life lived with an inescapable connection to the surrounding land, and developing an understanding of the importance of each element.
Taken together these memories are a way of growing up, the connection between the weather and state of the sea, and the smell of the town you live in, familiar and precious to many Australians
What do they think millions of litres of chlorinated fresh water will do to the seagrass? What effect do they expect the death of the seagrass to have on the garfish, and stingrays, and dolphins, and flathead?
Will local grandkids still have dusty photos of seaweed moustaches and wigs in 10 years?
Close your eyes. Come on a journey with me.
It’s early morning, you think about your day ahead. You recognise and embrace and are truly grateful for the many birdsongs that greet you each and every morning.
There are no other sounds, perhaps a car on its way to work, but you realise how incredibly fortunate you are to live in a rural setting, with the blessings of nature that greet you amongst the peace and quiet of the towns around Bittern and Crib Point.
You take a big breath and gently get out of bed. Still the birds keep their songs. You realise what a magnificent part of the world you live in. Beaches, bush, birds, bliss. What a perfect area for your family to learn about wilderness. You think you have made the best decision to raise your children here.
To care for nature. To have space. Clean air. Clean water. Tranquillity.
A large conglomerate called AGL decide that your home, your community, your land, your sea, your sand should be home to a monstrous floating gas tank. Disregarding the towns natural way of living, our conservation practices, and our pleas to choose another, more appropriate setting, AGL push their proposal and the community decide that our livelihoods, our quietude and our territory is worth the fight, so we raise our voices.
Come back to the journey.
Close your eyes
It’s evening. The birdsong returns. So many birds, different pitches, different lullabies. You breathe out a long sigh. For now, we have our way of life. If there was ever a home to protect, flora and fauna to safeguard, it’s certainly here.
These are two cheeky, but very friendly locals in our backyard (we live in Bittern, just 3.5km from the proposed site of development)
What will become of them, if AGLs plans are permitted?
I can’t bear to think of the damage and destruction and noise pollution of our bushland and waterways.
Honourable Minister Richard Wynne, the heritage, the wilderness and the soul of these area’s cannot be replaced nor can a price be put on their significance.
Please think of our precious land, our families, our wildlife. Our way of life, that we have chosen.
“ Such beauty, not of human hand… Is there for us to see… All nature is so wonderful…
The cost is nil, all free “
I grew up and spent the first 18 years of my life in Crib Point. My parents still live in the same house and so I return every couple of months or so to visit them.
Its low profile and low-key atmosphere are attributes that I’ve always valued and are what drove my parents here decades ago in the first place. It has enjoyed this low-profile status after much of the heavy industry left in the 1980’s. Since that time its environmental assets, bushland, wetlands, tourism and its portion of Westernport Bay have all enjoyed a gradual recovery as it continues to transition away from its industrial past.
Our wetlands are home to the world’s southernmost mangroves, which are a major tourist attraction, employing many across the Mornington Peninsula both directly and indirectly. This project threatens the wellbeing of this delicate ecosystem, and those industries that rely on its prosperity. These include the world-renowned Penguin Parade and Seal Rocks on nearby Phillip Island, board walking, birdwatching, whale watching, farming and fishing, which are major employers and tourism drivers in the wider Westernport Bay region.
I attribute my deep curiosity and knowledge of the natural world to being able to explore this wonderful area every weekend as a youth. I have been studying the biological world for a decade now and have a deep appreciation for its complexities.
It wasn’t until many years after having left Crib Point for Melbourne that I realized how utterly unique the place is. A coastal town with a country flavour that has remnants of an industrial past, but also has extraordinary recreation and further tourism potential given its wetlands and surrounding Woolley’s Beach Reserve and associated boardwalk and bushland.
I have really grown to appreciate it, and whenever I get the chance to tell someone about the hidden gem I grew up in, I jump at it. I mean there are birds that spend part of their life cycle between Westernport Bay and far eastern Siberia in Russia, it’s extraordinary! There are now regularly whales and dolphins in the area, this has steadily increased since I was living there. When I was younger, I used to sit on Woolley’s Beach and just enjoy the peace and tranquility, the amazing birdlife, the fishing boats, and of course would also have a swim in summer. I would stare at French Island and dream about going there one day and exploring its secrets.
But with this proposal comes a hulking 290-meter-long, 50-meter-wide, 17 story high obstruction in the form of a FSRU – what a way to drive a hammer through one of Crib Point’s most important assets. Crib Point has a unique mix of attributes and a low-key atmosphere that residents highly value.
Our lifestyles, the reason why we all moved here will be gone along with the peace and tranquility.
Having grown up within earshot of the old fire station in Crib Point, I am well accustomed to the sense of anxiety and dread whenever the fire-alarm goes off. The Crib Point, Bittern, Stony Point, Hastings area is extremely bushfire prone, it has experienced major fires recently, and every summer comes anxiety whenever the local fire brigades alarm goes off. I grew up about 2 kilometers from where the Crib Point jetty is now, so this holds a very important place in my heart.
This project will contribute to a worsening bushfire outlook given its vast emission of greenhouse gases and also increase the risk locally given the volatile nature of gas.
One of the most vivid memories I have of my childhood was when I was about 8 years old and my next door neighbour (who was a firefighter) came and knocked on our front door and warned us there’s a major out of control fire at HMAS Cerberus (naval base). So of course, we packed some essentials, let other locals know and tuned into the local radio station for what to do next.
We then hopped on our roof to see if we could get a glimpse and there, we saw the great Elvis firefighting helicopter fly right over our house near the old fire station in Crib Point. I remember it well; it was so close. It was a very scary time in my life.
It was a lesson in the awesome power of our natural environment if we are not prepared, if we don’t balance our societies needs with the environment’s needs, and when we fail to get it right. That was about 20 years ago and to continue exacerbating bushfire risk is about the most irresponsible action to take at this point.
This project would increase the severity of an already full bushfire season.
My parents now rely on the VicEmergency app to get the latest bushfire info. This is their new normal in summertime and increasingly, as the bushfire season expands, spring and autumn as well. We know when we listen to our firefighters that mitigation in back burning and keeping fire paths clear is only a minor part of the overall fire response. The best response is to maintain our relatively stable and predictable global climate, by not investing in any new fossil fuel infrastructure.
No amount of firefighting helicopters and finances can save a major gas pipeline when a multi-story fire aided by its own wind and lightning weather system is raging along.
Every local politician at least has some serious concerns about the rationale over this project. All four of the councils that are affected, include the City of Casey Council, Cardinia Shire Council, Bass Coast Shire, and the Mornington Peninsula Shire. They all voice concerns of their own regarding the potential impacts and the inadequacy of the EES.
Westernport Bay is such an asset to the Greater Melbourne area and beyond, and to see it compromised will not be acceptable.
The project rationale is inadequate and doesn’t meet the nation’s needs, and given how numerous viable alternatives in the renewable energy sector are ready to meet our country’s needs, this project is unnecessary.
Best put by Australia’s premier climate authority the Climate Council, the world does not need any new fossil fuel infrastructure, the case for investment in new gas infrastructure in Australia is weak at best. We need to create clean jobs and rapidly shift Australia away from fossil fuels. We do not need new gas. It’s time to put the community and the climate first by creating jobs in clean energy.
They have already outlined why investing in gas infrastructure is a terrible idea for a number of reasons. The alternatives are ready to use now. A mix of tidal, offshore and onshore wind, geothermal, hydropower, biomass, solar on all suitable households and public buildings with a mix of battery storage, pumped hydro-storage, smart grids and revitalising our wetlands and forests to capture some of that carbon.
Diversify the economy; where has the tax revenue from our mining boom, education and tourism booms gone? We are among the biggest exporters of coal, gas and iron ore, why hasn’t the profit been reinvested back into our community making it more resilient, like what Norway has done?
We see ambitious work being done in other states such as South Australia and it’s Tesla Battery, Tasmania with its ‘Battery of the Nation’ proposal, and the ACT with its 100% renewables policy. Where is Victoria’s ambition, aren’t we the most progressive state in Australia?
Is this really where Australia is at in its climate response obligations, is this really where we are happy to situate ourselves on the global platform? A domestic gas reservation policy and greater use of renewable energy and energy efficiency schemes are seen as the overarching
We need a vision for an inspiring future, and we have the technology, expertise, finances and the plan forward, we can do it.
Standing by the water
I’m standing on the edge
Mar-ran biik is calling
Return to Warn mar-rin
I came here with my brothers
my sisters by my side
I come here with my elders
& my children as my guides
We stand here as one people
Our witness to this time
We hold each other’s spirits
the sand, the sea, the sky
We are the Land, We are the waters
We are what lives, beneath the surface
We stand as one, all sons and daughters
& through our hands,
our Mother nurtures.
We’re waking up the seeds
That have been waiting in the ground
I know that through these hardened times
Our memory will soon be found
So dance on my horizon
Across our misty clouds of doubt Become my absolution
My pinnacle of love
We are the Land, We are the waters
We are what lives, beneath the surface
We stand as one, all sons and daughters
& through our hands,
our Mother nurtures
Through our hands, through our hands Through our hands, through our hands, Through our hands, through our……hands.
I first met Westernport Bay 5 years ago when my partner, now fiancée, and her father took me to meet her for a surf. We arrived in Shoreham and strolled through the beautiful woodlands above her shore and as we broke through the tree cover, I could see her in all her beauty.
The views over to Philip Island, out through her heads into the Bass Straight and the beautiful coastline down to Flinders. The waves were perfect, the crowd was friendly, and the water was beautiful. Clear enough to see the sea grass and rocky reef below my feet as they hung down into the sea.
Weeks later we would come back on a swell-less day to snorkel here and spot Sting Rays and Weedy Sea Dragons.
Over the years, Westernport Bay and I have become firm friends, I see her every day, on my morning runs around Balnarring Beach and surf her waters as often as she provides swell. Always delighted to paddle out in her regardless of the temperature or season, I know I’ll have fun with her.
I’ve introduced my family and friends to her when they’ve visited from the UK and all have been impressed and amazed at her beauty and vistas, the sandy beaches and the wildlife filled mangroves. A stroll along her board walk in Warrangine, or standing on the Flinders Pier on a blustery day watching Gannets and Albatross soar.
Her wildlife is incredible, I’ve surfed with penguins and Fur Seals, snorkelled with Sea Dragons and Sting Rays and watched in amazement as Hooded Plovers and Red capped plovers scamper along her beaches trying to raise their young.
When I heard there was a Save Westernport group, it made complete sense to be involved to protect my dear friend.
The thought that AGL could propose a FSRU to ruin this magnificent space is heart breaking. Anyone who has set foot on her beaches and looked out across her will be staggered by the thought of industrialising her.
I urge any politicians thinking that AGL’s ridiculous and horrid plan is a good idea, to come and visit Westernport Bay, let me show you her dolphins, let’s watch the birds swoop over her waters feeding and admire the wild spaces along her boundaries.
If the FSRU goes ahead, my heart would break, knowing that my friend, my source of joy and wonder is going to be slowly destroyed by mans greed and ignorance – especially when two alternative locations exist that are not Ramsar wetlands or Marine National Parks and have the infrastructure in place.
Westernport Bay is a beautiful, wise, unsung quiet achiever; gentle beach coves, surf beaches, nature walking trails, unparalleled bird watching, unique coastal scrub and freshwater lakes.
Westernport Bay has a natural integrity that is precious and irreplaceable. That is evident in its listing as an internationally recognised, significant Ramsar Wetland site since 1982. It is well known as one of the three most important areas for migratory shorebirds in south-east Australia.
The Bay was also declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2002 (one of only nine in Australia).
I have been a visitor to many parts of the bay consistently over the past 20 years. To walk, observe, regenerate and to take photographs for my art practice. When I alight on any part of Westernport’s shores, she is instantly recognisable as being a very important and unique natural environment with a great deal to offer. The bay’s wetland areas are so fascinating to me. I particularly love mangroves and am so in awe of their quiet strength in stabilising coastal systems, nutrient cycling and the wildlife habitat they provide.
I gain much inspiration from their resilience and subtle complexities.
Westernport Bay is an understated beauty, a jewel in Victoria’s crown, a surviving example of other precious environments that are now just a memory…. a memory of ones that heavy industry has smashed down before for short term financial gains.
My love is for the mud, marshy swampland that is hard to traverse, tangled roots of mangrove, seagrass meadows and saltmarshes. It doesn’t seem like much is going on there………but underneath the water, inside the mud and marsh, skittering along the shoreline around the mangrove roots and in the scrubby trees is a complex, fragile, incredibly rich diversity of fauna, flora and marine life, the likes of which are not seen anywhere else in the world.
It is a bay with extraordinary, ecological values. The wetland flora diversity creates the food chains that sustain marine life and provide food for the 36 species of migratory shorebirds that land there for a sustained time every single year coming from within the Arctic Circle. It provides for thousands of local avian lives every day.
It is very quiet there, lapping water a constant companion, major tidal swings always bringing a different view and places to explore. It is a place for meandering, observing, sitting, contemplating, regenerating and somewhere just to be with an unsung hero…nature.
As I said, Westernport Bay is a quiet achiever.
AGL I believe you are being dishonest with Australians. Claiming that Victoria needs a gas terminal in Westernport Bay for its domestic needs and not owning up to the facts that the huge sell off in 2015 to GLNG and then selling your entire free gas portfolio to the LNG plants as the real reason for the shortfall.
That the plant will drive gas prices down is blatantly untrue. The LNG will be imported at raised international prices. AGL, you are a gas company, how could you not have been acutely aware of the decline in Bass Strait and stepped up sooner in moving to renewables?
AGL you do not have social approval to go ahead with this project. There is overwhelming community protest.
AGL your risk assessments merely contain regurgitated publicly known facts but contain no real, scientific investigations into the specific impacts of the plant on Westernport Bays environment.
AGL if you go ahead with your proposed re-gasification plant and the subsequent, inevitable and irreversible major degradation of the fragile ecosystems of Westernport Bay you will be responsible for creating a cultural malaise amongst the millions of local and visiting people who love unique Westernport Bay for what she is, a rare opportunity to experience a sense of wilderness less than 2 hours from Melbourne.
My message to our politicians is, ‘How could you even consider agreeing to the senseless pollution and despoiling of such a precious environment and be prepared to lose Victoria’s premier tourism destination worth billions of dollars?’
Personally, I will feel an incredible environmental grief if this Bay is pulled asunder by AGL’s dirty gas plan.
Will there never be an end to our desecration of nature?
I relocated from Sandringham to Somers 5 years ago, attracted by the unique environment and unspoilt beauty of Westernport Bay, recognised by Ramsar as a Wetland of international importance. I have learned that this unique and fragile place is also a beautiful sanctuary for people, sea mammals, such as whales, furs seals and dolphins and migratory and local birds.
My family delight in their stays at their Somers home, to enjoy the wildness of the foreshore, the swims, the play in the sand dunes, the discovery of the preciousness of nature and the natural environment as well as the changes seasons bring to it. What a wonderful grounding for my grandchildren, time out to explore, wonder and just be and learn to appreciate and respect the natural world.
My daily walks on the foreshore are a blessing, the water’s clean, the coast line ever changing with our strong tidal systems that wash up large varieties of usually hidden treasures such as seaweeds, sponges, crustaceans, jellyfish, shark eggs and mangrove seed pods, providing a peak at what’s below the surface.
A rich diversity of life.
I’m also fascinated by the variety of birds that live on the bay or around her shores. In the summer of 2018, migratory swans found refuge in our bay for a week or so, one morning on my walk I noticed that only a solo swan was left. It appeared to have a damaged wing, a very sad sight to see and was the subject of much community concern. Fresh water was left out for the bird and on my daily walk I was relieved every day to see that it had survived the night. The swan stayed through the autumn and the winter and in the Spring we were all delighted to see another swan had arrived with two signets, they stayed together for a few days and then flew away. A family reunion? Maybe, I like to think so. It was the cause of much celebration.
Walking to Sandy Point is a sheer joy, the beauty of the bleached banksia trunks that have been uprooted from their sand dunes by the wild storms and now lay silvered by sun and sea water. The clear waters in their aqua’s and blues revealing small fish darting from our shadows or those caste by a hunting bird. The walk reveals a changing landscape and the high tidal changes can make this an exciting adventure for those caught unaware. It is when reaching beautiful and historic Sandy Point that you can truly appreciate the beauty of Westerport Bay as the separation between Philip Island and French Island is seen for the first time revealing the grandeur of her waters.
I learned to kayak in Westernport Bay motivated by the proximity of our resident dolphins . To watch them hunt and play and to witness their curiosity as they swim among people, play with dogs and come up to yachts and small boats. I’ve had the privilege of having a proud mother swim right up to my kayak with her young pup trustingly almost placing her head on my bow, as if to say look at the wonder I’ve created. Unforgettable. Westernport Bay is also a refuge for migratory whales with Southern Right Whales, Humpbacks and Killer Whales being regular visitors.
The AGL proposal threatens the pristine environment of Westernport Bay. They plan to draw water from the bay to thaw their frozen gas. In this process our sea water is chlorinated to destroy all living things and cooled by another 7 degrees celsius before being dumped back into the bay. Imagine the impact of 468 million litres of cooled chlorinated water being dumped in the bay everyday. How can this not have impact? How can it not destroy a beautifully balanced eco system?
This totally goes against our commitment as a signatory to the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands of International Importance to protect Westernport Bay.
To add insult to injury AGL could install a closed system to recycle the chlorinated waters, without dumping them in the bay. They have so little respect for the environment that they are unwilling to do so, due to the cost. A much greater cost would be the denigration of these wetlands for the future generations of living things.
AGL’s project has a 20 year lifespan before it changes to renewables.
Is 20 years delay really worth the destruction of our beautiful Bay?
Renewables are available now, they are efficient, effective and cheaper than the price we pay for our current forms. A much greater cost is to enable short term greed to delay the use of renewable energy to provide cater for our energy needs. Gas is toxic, its destructive and it’s ultimately far too costly .
Wetlands are amazing places and are among the most biodiverse eco systems in the world. Research suggests that they can also capture and store large amounts of carbon lessening the impact of climate change. Shouldn’t we be protecting this unique and irreplaceable wetland on Melbourne’s doorstep for future generations?
Not only for our people to witness and enjoy, but also or for the survival of the huge variety of species in their own right.
Is it not our sacred duty to do so?
Say no to AGL!
I grew up in a seaside town known to many as Hastings, in Victoria. I learnt about nature with my Mum who would take my brother and I along the Warringine Park boardwalk after school. As a young child, I used to sit and curiously watch the mud crabs scurry around, dwarfed by the mangroves and melaleucas that surrounded us. Connecting with nature on these walks taught us that there was more to our world than burgeoning local industries and housing developments.
At that age I had no idea about bureaucratic and financial terminologies adults used to value ecosystems like this. Nor did I know that this place would qualify as a Ramsar wetlands or a Biosphere Reserve. All I knew was that it was a special place for me and my family. So special, it inspired me to become an aquatic biologist and dedicate my life to protecting fragile and integral ecosystems like Westernport Bay.
Most recently, this area has been subject to a development proposal by AGL and APA Group, who intend to develop an intrusive Floating Regasification Unit (FSRU) and pipeline in Westernport Bay, in the heart of the Warringine Ramsar Wetlands. I feel fortunate to be a part of a dedicated and stoic community group who are fighting this proposal by reflecting the intrinsic connection we all share with this special place, our home. This community group, called Save Westernport, has garnered the attention of an NGO, Environment Victoria, who are supporting our cause to push for the protection of this area because they recognize how ludicrous it would be for our government to permit AGL to install a 300m long gas factory in the wetlands.
Collectively, we are all concerned that there is no need for this development, that the development is not financially beneficial for the region or environmentally safe for the climate, that the local environmental impacts, such as light pollution, bushfire risk and damage to the coastal areas are going to be disastrous for the longevity of this 25 year project. But personally, I am worried that this development will have a detrimental impact on current and future generations, who will suffer solastalgia.
I implore our politicians to stand with our community and fight with heart against this project and to push for a strengthening of our environmental laws. This proposal should never have come so far.
I want to thank my local community, our Boon Wurrung Traditional Custodians and everyone who has pitched in to support this campaign to keep AGL out of our beautiful, sacred waterways.
These special places should be protected for every being.
I didn’t mean to live on the Mornington Peninsula, but life has habit of having its own way sometimes.
So, after joyful years living in NZ – life bought me to Bittern.
I had no idea that this delightful place was tucked away here south of Melbourne.
There are bike paths, and walking paths and beautiful beaches. Wineries, breweries, gardens.
Without a lie, I’ll tell you this – we moved to Bittern in Oct 2018 and we had houseguests every night from Dec 22 2018 to April 25 2019: waving one dear friend off and welcoming another, with just enough time to change the sheets!
This speaks to the enthusiasm to visit this part of the world.
Our ‘guest trail’ is beautiful – bike rides from Jacks Beach to Hastings, lunches at breweries and wineries, swims at Gunnamatta Beach, snorkeling at Flinders Pier, learning about the Ramsar listing, Coolart wetlands, visits to ‘the other side’ (Port Philip Bay side), walking at Arthurs Seat and treks to the very end of Nepean Point.
What a beautiful place – all within a couple of hours on the train to Melbourne-town for a day of museums, galleries, shopping and restaurants.
And now: the grief of the possibility of losing all this to foolish profit, greed and mistaken arguments about ‘essential power’. I learnt of this proposal in an almost offhand comment from the Estate Agent, after we’d signed the contract. I guess it was a case of buyer beware. But I am not sorry I am here. I delight in this beautiful community still.
But here we are, fighting to stop all this being given away, the bay destroyed – all for the profit of faraway business leaders and faceless shareholders.
What a travesty.