Jean and Rod Knowles’ Story

Jean and Rod Knowles’ Story

Four years ago my husband and I decided on a sea change so we retired to the seaside village of Crib Point, to enjoy the great fishing that Westernport Bay offers and the serene and tranquil bush environment.

We had no idea that instead, we’d be battling a massive energy company to stop our new home and town from being destroyed.

The nearby Bay is alive with marine life including the magical Weedy Sea Dragon, the Great Southern Calamari and the beautiful King George Whiting. Dolphins and Whales also visit the waters of Westernport Bay Stony Point and Crib Point. All kinds of fish, as mentioned above, are attracted to the food that flows from the prolific sea grasses that grow in the Bay and its special mangrove ecosystem.

At low tide, the precious wetland banks are exposed allowing wading birds access to all sorts of sea creatures. It is for this reason that Westernport Bay is recognised under the international Ramsar Convention agreement as part of a world-wide corridor for migratory birds and by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as a special biosphere to be protected at all costs,.

There is a beautiful walk adjacent to the Bay that runs from Hastings to Stony Point (about 6 klm) consisting of a boardwalk and bushwalk. As you walk you can see the migratory birds feeding on the mud flats (like the Eastern Curlew). Also along the track we come across our lovely native birds like swans, parrots, parakeets, as well as black and white cockatoos there are also wallabies.

In the middle of this special 6k walking track is the Crib Point jetty. That’s where AGL are planning to moor what they call their Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU), but we call it “a dirty, dangerous floating gas factory”. It will be 290 metres long and 17 stories high. 

The plan is to use it as a mother ship where up to 40 Liquid Natural Gas tankers will offload their fossil fuel every year. The liquid gas will be processed by drawing in 480 million litres a day of water, chlorinating it to protect the ship’s pipework, and using it to warm up the LNG. The sea water would then be returned to the bay 7 degrees cooler.

Other issues that we are very concerned about are:

  • The very real danger of fire and explosion, that if it took place would decimate our Crib Point seaside village.
  • Constant noise and light pollution affecting wildlife and the community alike.
  • AGL has a past dangerous behaviour record. The company has been fined $7 millions in recent years for “deceptive, misleading and negligent” conduct. They’ve breached regulations around toxic coal ash and have allowed thousands of litres of sulphuric acid from their Bayswater power-station to flow into Tinkers Creek in NSW – the list goes on and on. We are very concerned that something like this will happen in our Bay.

 

It is very important all Victorians know what AGL is trying to do and are made aware of the uniqueness of this area. We must ensure this area is preserved for our children, grandchildren and all future generations.

 

Our action group we have setup to fight this AGL dangerous proposal is known as Save Westernport (SWP) we have joined forces with Environment Victoria (EV), who along with SWP, have become a driving force behind the campaign to stop AGL’s “dirty, dangerous gas factory” proposal.

 

EV and SWP have run 2 petitions and “Boycott AGL” Pledges collecting 17,000 signatures.  The petitions demanded the State Government make AGL carry out a full environmental effects assessment. Which they did and we successfully delayed the project from 2018 until now.

 

But AGL are still pushing ahead with their dirty project, at this point in time they have submitted to the Planning Minister a Environment Effects Statement(EES) as requested.  The Government is not expected to make AGL’s EES public until July when all of us will be able make written submissions challenging AGL’s EES, later on in the year public verbal submissions will be called for.

 

So we call on one and all to get behind SWP and EV, join SWP to financially support us, receive our email newsletters and ensure that you are kept in the link so you know what you can do to help us in this very serious campaign to save this very special area that we all live in.

 

Don’t forget our Save Westernport No AGL Gas Facebook and website   

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

Jean & Rod Knowles

 

Westernport Bay Heart Story by Vicky Karitinos

Westernport Bay Heart Story by Vicky Karitinos

What’s in a name like “Westernport Bay”? An unpretentious name, perhaps even somewhat unremarkable. A name you would be forgiven for passing over when planning your next camping or fishing trip, day outing, walk, photographic excursion, swim. But oh! it’s a name that belies the world that is Westernport – Warn Marring.

Hop in the car, on the train and bus, or on your bike! Let’s go!

You’ll find the journey itself feels like traveling through a portal to another time – a journey which takes you across the magnificent vistas of Mornington Peninsula, which together with Westernport Bay is one of our nation’s 9 UNESCO biospheres and a RAMSAR site of international ecological importance. Yes, you know this in your head, but as you make your way, you’ve noticed a melting away, a release of tension as your shoulders soften, your breath slows and deepens. You may feel somewhat mesmerised by the gentle undulating land through which you travel.

You may not know it right now, but this is a journey you’ll relish with the greatest anticipation, for all of your life. A journey which you’ll want to share with those you love most. A journey you’ll be drawn to make – like a migratory bird – throughout the seasons.

After the picturesque drive you’ll arrive, catching a glimpse of her waters, sometimes cerulean, sometimes ultramarine blue. You’ll feel surprisingly relaxed after your journey, because there won’t have been miles of traffic and bottlenecks to hinder your way, and you may feel a fleeting curiosity about the absence of congestion. Then you’ll take that first step out. You’ll step out under the spacious skies above Westernport Bay, you’ll walk to the shoreline anywhere between Flinders and the Nobbies at Philip Island. You will be transformed, renewed and never the same.

What do I mean by transformed, you ask?

Well, at a glance you will appreciate the quiet beauty. But if you spend a little more time, linger and gaze out across the Bay, it won’t be long before you grow to know that you have arrived in a place of great mystery and sacredness. At first you may find it difficult to put into words, the all pervasiveness of the deep “something” that you sense. This “something” you will feel compelled to find words to describe, to convey to others. Perhaps you’ll say “Westernport Bay has cast a spell” over you.

Is it the light at a certain time of day – the pastel muted colours shimmering on the water – pink, purple, mauve, soft blue? Is it the enormous fluffy clouds floating just above the horizon, reflecting their white light on the waters below? You may ask yourself, “how is it the clouds themselves have a luminosity that lights up the calm Bay beneath them, and makes it glow white?”. You thought this mastery over the water was reserved for the heavenly bodies of Sun and Moon, not the lowly clouds! And yet, at Westernport Bay, you will find the clouds reflect a pathway to you standing on the shore there!

You will most certainly take a walk. Perhaps across a long sandy beach where the red capped plover nests, fringed by thick coastal woodland, wetland and dotted with banksia. Or by the banks of a hidden tidal creek where you’ll hear frogs, reedwarblers, yellow robins, superb fairy wrens and honey eaters, and you’ll make a mental note to bring binoculars next time. Perhaps you’ll stroll along a low boardwalk beside gentle sea meadows, salt marshes and mangroves marvelling at the resident or migratory wading birds. You’ll gaze out over the swathes of rich fertile mudflats which nourish them. Perhaps you’ll traverse a high boardwalk hugging the rugged windswept cape where fairy penguins roost. You may meander a sandy track beneath the steady gaze of 500-year-old Moonah trees on one of the Bay’s National Parks. Or wander the sand dunes overlooking a glistening surf beach beckoning, or tip toe across shiny black volcanic rock pools at low tide.

What you’ll notice is that every terrestrial and celestial thing is full, abounding with a gentle benevolence. Teeming with life, the abundance both soothes and enlivens your senses. You feel held and embraced without having to ask. You feel comforted by the stillness, the quiet. You come to understand this deep peace and profound stillness is what nurtures a gazillion birds at the end of their long journey from the Arctic and allows the marine life to thrive. The benevolence of the Bay is palpable. It’s in the air, on the breeze off the water, in every aspect – so much so, you start to understand you are a part of the deep, generous web of life you’ve found here. You will inhale the goodness deeply, and you’ll exhale deeply. You will take it all in – and let go.

You won’t feel small or overwhelmed. You’ll feel in communion as with a dear friend, welcomed by the full and generous place that is Westernport Bay.

You will see groups of people quietly walking, fishing, sailing, beachcombing, talking – unpretentious. Everything feels perfectly balanced. Everyone seems to share in the deep knowing, which, like you, they have found here.

You may feel you have woken in a dream, with a sense of place so magical, you could be walking through the pages of a picture book you read as a child.

You come to understand Westernport Bay’s uniqueness.

Our children knew it too, because they felt safe to wander freely in the Bay’s gentle snug circular lap, comforted by long slender land arms they could see across the water. They banded together to explore, inspired by the sense of wonder and adventure they developed here, unperturbed. They delighted in covering themselves from ankles to earlobes in an impervious layer of thick pasty mud from the “crater” at the creek and paraded in sheer joy their mud-suits. They kayaked alongside playful dolphins and dared each other to swim to the orange buoys floating offshore, noticing the distance of the swim varied according to the tides. They set off in the mornings to explore rock pools and they trekked together to the high dunes in the baking heat, mid-Summer, and found respite in the cool sand beneath the dense dune scrub, rewarding themselves with a game of hide and seek in the network of verdant tunnels.

If you want to give a gift to those you love most, this is it. The gift of the internationally recognised magnificent ecological, natural wonder that is Westernport Bay – home to infinite precious wildlife. A gift that will stay in your heart always to nourish you throughout the days and weeks, months and years. And if you thought someone may take this precious gift and degrade, tarnish, destroy it, would you allow that to happen?

A HEART STORY – MY CONNECTION TO WESTERNPORT ~ by Del Skinner

A HEART STORY – MY CONNECTION TO WESTERNPORT ~ by Del Skinner

Westernport has held me for many moons. I have slept in many of the beautiful places around the Bay, from the shining jewel of French Island to the silent waters of Cannons Creek; at Cowes on Phillip Island, at Grantville, beside the wide tidal flats at Lang Lang, the peaceful Wooleys Beach and I now hear the murmur of the shore from my home in Somers.
I have walked the beach in moonlight and scooped fine fluorescent sand worms up with my hands.

I’ve watched the waterspout of a whale resting in the stretch of water between my French Island home and Cowes on Phillip Island.
I have been tossed in the troughs and peaks of churning waves during ferry crossings in rough seas and glided my kayak across the smooth waters of bays and inlets.
Bright hermit crabs have retreated under my exploration of rockpools, soldier crabs scurry into the mud, and wader birds dig long beaks in to extract them from internationally recognised migratory bird habitat.

I nursed my baby in Westernport as dolphins nurse their babies in the waters that lay ten minutes’ walk from my home.

When working at a tourism facility on French Island, I met many hundreds of people, all in awe of the amazing unique place that Westernport is. I will remember forever, standing with an overseas visitor on top of a hill overlooking the stretch of bay from Hastings to Philip Island, right where AGL propose to put a huge gas factory; she spread her arms wide, lifted her head and began to twirl as she sang a long joyful ‘ahhhhh’. Never had she seen such pristine wide space.

Large flocks of black swans feed and live in the shallows, it is told that the black swans Josephine held at Malmaison in France, the first black swans in Europe, were collected from Westernport by Baudin’s expedition in the early 1800’s.

At the Visitor Information Centre in Hastings, thousands of visitors tell of their love of the area, amazed at their discovery of such a unique place. Locals, tourists and past residents tell stories of the fabulous fishing, the great twitching experiences, times past, passion for the great Westernport diving spots “best in Victoria”, observation of and interaction with marine mammals, surfing, swimming, paddling, playing, boating, walking, relaxing and enjoying this beautiful place.

I have read a history of William Thomas, Aboriginal Protectorate, and his observations of the Boonwurrung who he lived with from 1839 – 1840. When reserves were proposed, the Boonwurrung people chose the area from Balnarring to Crib Point as their place. Unfortunately, the traditional owners were driven from this land, but locals know of middens and stone tools that have been found and survive till this day.

For decades, people have put in many volunteer hours to plant, weed, remove rubbish, educate, protect the bay from heavy industry and contribute to Westernport and its community. I am one of those many people who give time to protect and restore this unique and amazing place.

I want to go on exploring, learning and experiencing the beautiful unique environment that Westernport is. I am loath to imagine the damage that a 17 storey, third of a kilometre-long floating gas plant and subsequent ships importing the gas will do to wonderful Westernport.

Rupert’s Story ~ by Rupert Steiner

Rupert’s Story ~ by Rupert Steiner

We live in Balnarring Beach and have been in Balnarring for more than 40 years, first as holiday makers and from the 90’s as permanent residents. I enjoy the safe beach and snorkel around our reefs to admire the sea life, plants and animals. My partner has been coming down here since the 50’s and, through her, I found out about this paradise.

It is really the whole combination of the still reasonable foreshore and the clean waters of the bay and beaches that are, for me, the thing we need to protect from development and fragmentation by greed and thoughtlessness. This also goes for the hinterland of the peninsula, because if we don’t protect the rural aspect of the large land holdings as such, the whole ecosystem will be affected to its detriment.

I’m an environmentalist and the senseless destruction or diminishment of our still halfway decent environment on the peninsula, has got me on the barricades against the constant pressure from vested interests, Government and private enterprise. It seems every 10 or so years someone has a great idea for getting rich quickly, of course always at the greatest cost to the environment of our beautiful Westernport Bay and peninsula.

I live here and as our house is very near sea level, my greatest concern is the lack of action on Climate Change. If we keep living and acting the way our politicians seem to expect us to, Climate Change and sea-level rises will inundate great swathes of our beautiful peninsula and many other coastal regions around Australia and the world in the very near future. I will probably be gone by then, but our children and following generations will inherit a terrible legacy as a result of the inaction of our societies around the globe.

I love nature and I accept the fact that without a clean and healthy environment humanbeings will not prosper for much longer. So, as the old saying goes ‘Think global act local’. If we all did a little, we could save Westernport Bay from the scourge of greedy, corporate rape.

AGL are a large corporation and have unequal power in any of their interactions with our communities. They are not listening to our concerns about the health of our bay and are just paying lip service to their obligations when it comes to the protections of our environment. They keep insisting that they are doing this in the communities’ interest but have not convinced any of us, who really care about our environment, of their genuine accountability to us.

If we want to tackle Climate Change in any real sense, we have to stop using fossil fuels as soon as possible around the world. Australia, at present, is the biggest producer of gas, and AGL is telling us that it needs to import gas into Australia at any cost, but the cost is carried mainly by the environment and the people around their insane proposal.

The proposed import facility would be only the first stage of such industrialisation of our foreshores and would be followed by a stampede of others intending to make money off the back of our environment. It would set a precedent for other harebrained schemes for our pristine environment in Westernport Bay.

My message to the politicians is:

Stop this insanity now and show some leadership on reining in the corporate pirates of the environment. Say no and no for good not just for another 10 years.

What Westernport means to me. ~ by Jean Christie

What Westernport means to me. ~ by Jean Christie

I first became concerned about protecting the environment early in 2013, when I attended an information session given by Environment Victoria. For the first time, I heard about the possibility of farmland, woodlands and coastal areas being dug up and ruined, in order to locate gas for energy. It was also the first time that I heard about renewable energy, and I wondered why there seemed to be so little information available in our media about these two very important matters. I signed up on the spot as a volunteer, and became active in activities such as letterboxing, door- knocking, community calling, and helping with stalls.

I am now active with several environment groups, and have a much better idea of the state of the Australian environment, and the nature and scale of work being undertaken to protect it. And it was through Environment Victoria that I learned about AGL’s plan to use Westernport Bay as the location for a gas processing plant, an undertaking which would involve the destruction of the bay’s wetlands, and the pollution of its water. Needless to say, the destruction would consequently lead to the loss of bird life on the wetlands, and the marine life in the bay. Furthermore, the fuel that would be produced, as a result of this, would exacerbate air pollution, thus adversely affecting the health of residents, and bringing about more climate change.

I do not want any of these things to happen, and so I attended a peaceful protest outside the AGL Annual General Meeting in Melbourne a few years ago. The protest was well attended, including EV supporters, as well as people from the Mornington Peninsula, who had made the long journey into the city. The protestors held banners and signs, to inform the arriving shareholders of AGL’s intentions. Previously, I had been an AGL customer, but I divested from the company, in order to get my power from a company that supplies environmentally friendly energy.

With the possible destruction of the bay, Peninsula residents stand to lose their recreational areas, and their livelihoods. The tens of thousands of tourists who visit from Melbourne, interstate, and overseas, will not travel to see ruined, uninhabited wetlands, or visit beaches that are unsuitable for either swimming or fishing. This gas processing plant would devastate entire communities.

Some years ago, my Japanese friend and I went on the bus tour to see the penguins arrive at sunset. We travelled on a hot day, and stopped at beautiful beaches to paddle or swim. We had an excellent guide, who talked about the indigenous history of the Peninsula, as well as its early white settlement. My friend Akiko was enchanted by the penguins, and amazed to see so many. It was a great trip!

AGL’s project would destroy habitat, fauna, and marine life. It would ruin the Peninsula’s idyllic lifestyle, as well as kill the tourist industry, leaving thousands unemployed. And as a final insult, the gas produced would be more expensive than clean, cheap solar or wind energy.

The gas processing plant spells DISASTER. We cannot allow AGL to proceed with it.

14/6/20

A place to connect deeply ~ by Sarah Miller

A place to connect deeply ~ by Sarah Miller

Merricks Beach is my sacred place. Merricks Beach on Western Port Bay, Warn Marring was our childhood home. It was here that my sense of wonder and awe for this planet began. It was here I delighted in the cliff tops, the rock pools, the sandy shallow beaches, the waves at the point, the sand dunes, the woodlands. It was here my sense of self as part of something greater was nourished.
This place I return to regularly, to foster that deep connection I have to the lands, the waters, the air. I visit alone, with family, with friends. We snorkle, we swim, we walk, we drum, we bird watch and we chat. We camp at Balnarring and at Somers.
It is also a Ramsar site- and that means it is recognized as an international site of significance for birds. It means it is supposed to be protected. Caspian Terns, Pied Oystercatcher, Grey Tailed Tattler, Eastern curlew, to name just a handful of the endangered birds that call Westernport home.
Westernport is home to significant marine creatures too, whales, dolphins, sharks, fur seals, weedy sea dragons, I could go on. As over 630 animal species are supported by the westernport environment. These lands and these waters are precious.
This is BoonWurrung Country, the people of the two bays. Port Phillip, Nairm and Westernport, Warn Marring. It is sacred land, and water.
This is a place of my deepest connection, and right now AGL plans to create one of the largest gas terminals in Australia. They will house 40 tankers each year. Each tanker is as big as 20 humpback whales lined head to tail tip. Each tanker will be moored at AGL’s proposed Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU), a 290-metre long gas plant permanently moored at Crib Point across from Phillip Island. The whole process will be disastrous, as they take water from the bay and then spew out chloride filled water that is a whopping 7 degrees cooler than it went in. (Apparently AGL have changed from this open loop system to a closed loop system which involves the burning of fossil fuels eg gas to cool the gas. So that is not a solution. WE are in a climate crisis AGL !)
Other impacts could include the clearing of wetlands, dredging of the Bay floor, chemical and petroleum leaks and spills, local noise and light pollution, disruption to marine life and the introduction of damaging marine pests.
At a time when we need to be moving away from climate damaging energy, AGL is full steam ahead. We need your support to stop them. We need you to tell your story of why this place is so important to you. Tell the premier Dan Andrews and the Minister for the Environment, Lily D’Ambrosio MP., that you want real leadership on Climate, real leadership on protecting our environment, and real leadership on supporting a healthy Victoria for all. Let see if they will listen.
Oh and if they tell you we need the gas that is simply not true. This is a profit making exercise because AGL can get more money selling out gas overseas than here. We already produce enough gas for our consumption, and hopefully are investing in renewables to lower than need.

From St Kilda to Crib Point by Candy van Rood

From St Kilda to Crib Point by Candy van Rood

We didn’t know anything about AGL‘s plans for Crib Point when we moved here from Melbourne.

A friend rang me to tell me that on the front page of The Age, there was an article about how AGL were going to install a massive gas import jetty into Westernport.
She had been to visit the weekend before and, like me, was struck by the subtle and delicate beauty of Westernport.

I should thank AGL because they forced me to have a much deeper look at where I was living. AGL tell me I was the first person to phone them from this area and ask what was going on.

They were very keen to meet me, as they were on a campaign to make ‘friends’ with the community. They were setting up info nights for the community and invited me to their up-and-coming meeting at Crib Point Community House.

I was the only one in the room questioning the validity of their proposal. I got many dirty looks and a lot of antagonism that evening, but I was following my intuition and all my instincts were telling me this was a serious threat to the well-being of Westernport.

My partner and I walked along Woolley’s Beach almost daily, and at first, being city people, we thought ‘yukky smelly mangroves’ but it didn’t take long for us to actually get that the mangroves and sea-grasses were teaming with life and were something extraordinarily beautiful.

My first reaction to AGL was ‘not in my back yard. I don’t want a big factory up the end of the street thanks.’ Then I started to find out that there are all these unique creatures, and exotic flora, vistas and landscapes like we’d never seen before.

I started talking to people who I was meeting and learnt through my curiosity and enquiry, the importance of wetlands, how much carbon they sequester, and how they are the feeding centres and home for so many eco-systems and unique creatures and endangered shore birds. An example is the Eastern Curlew that flies to Siberia every year without stopping. This wetland, this tidal bay is linked globally, by these creatures. There are many other unique creatures, such as the Southern Brown Bandicoot, that lives in Warringine Park.

I am a visual artist and I’ve only ever drawn and painted people or my pets, but now I’ve started drawing birds and fish. This place informs my work, not just in a literal sense but in a metaphorical sense, it has opened my heart and mind to a much deeper nature and ecology.

I’d never seen anything like little Red Hooded Plover, or the local Crib Point orchids. And of course, these unique life forms inform my aesthetic and understanding. My whole colour palette has changed since we’ve lived here. It is much more subtle and earthy. My life has changed because living close to relatively pristine nature is so healthy and enlivening. I love the clean air and clear waters of the ever-changing shorelines, and the deep silences.

I thought that surely there must be others down here who treasure this, like I do. I could feel it, but I wasn’t meeting them in my local area. So, I went on social media talking about what I was finding and asking people what they thought about AGL’s plans. This was when I started the No AGL page on Facebook (August 2017). It attracted a lot of people and then the AGL meetings started to fill with the people who were on that page, and their neighbours, and there were people representing both camps.

It was Rod Knowles, the ex-fireman, who at the end of one of the meetings in Hastings, stood up and said, “Hey are we going to let them do this or what?” He invited people to put their email address on a list which he called ‘the loop’ and out of this, several of us formed the first SW committee. There were about 10 of us in the beginning and we would meet at the Red Hill bakery in Balnarring for the first few months. People arrived and then departed. There was a lot of practical and expert community input. Other local groups such as WPPC, PICS and VNPA started to help us.

Joanna Macy says you have two important tools to change the world: ‘Compassion and Wisdom’. That’s what I try to keep referring to, when I get provoked or angry.
I was in the supermarket one day and this woman and I started talking. I started to talk about AGL and she said “Oh no, no, no. It’s going to bring jobs. It’s going to be really good” and I said, “Sorry to tell you but, there are no jobs for locals. If you want more information, please look at our website” and she got very angry and a little abusive, but with my commitment of Peace, I said ‘I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I’m sorry this is making you so angry.’

When I go out there and I look at that beautiful bay I think ‘You’re not going to get ruined. I’m not going to let it happen! It’s in my blood to fight for justice. My grandparents and parents were activists. My father was in the Council for Civil Liberties. My mother was in WILPF: The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, so I’ve had that modelled to me.

What keeps me going? When I think about the children … it really upsets me. I can’t bear it. I want them to have a natural world to interact with, I want our species to learn that we are part of nature, that Earth is our only home and we must live with her, as part of her.

Have you thought how life will be for your grandchildren? Have you thought about the mass extinctions that are happening right now? Have you thought about your health and your children’s health and their children’s health? Do you really want to lose our only home?

Joanna Macy talks about ‘the Great Turning’ that we’re in right now, it comes after the ‘Unravelling’. The falling apart of the old world of exploitation and endless unsustainable growth. We could turn this whole thing around, and it could become a new world that is based on values of a sustainable equality, a human partnership with the environment, where we work with nature, with the deep knowing that we are part of nature. I think that COVID has made us pause, and although the tragedy of lives lost and the breaking up of the way things have been is hard for us to go through, we have the opportunity to change the whole paradigm.

I see that the way for us to get through this to the other side is through building and nourishing local community. I think local communities are the most important thing now. This is a global trend, and it is the movement away from globalisation and all the horrendous inequalities this fosters. If you can build a community that loves and values the local environment, like the one we’re currently building through our mutual love for Western Port bay, then we will be a very strong force to be reckoned with. There’s no way we can ever compete with the amount of money and corporate power that AGL has but we’ve got another kind of power which is priceless.

Many people think their voice is not enough, too small, that their contribution won’t make any difference, but one of my teacher’s taught me. ‘If you think your voice is too small, think about the mosquito in your room at night.’

I was a jeweller and had a business for 30 years in the fashion industry. I was in the city and all caught up in that fast and furious rat-wheel world.

I had no idea that when we moved to Crib Point, I would be completely taken over by the spirit of this magnificent place and that with my whole heart I would be making sure that it is protected for the long term. I’m in this for the long haul and I’m dedicating this part of my life to this bay. It’s symbolic of areas like this all over the world that must now be cherished.

To the politicians I would say that it’s not business as usual. We can not go on wrecking and ruining and exploiting natural places anymore. We cannot afford to build fossil fuel infrastructure which within the next decade will be a stranded asset. All our efforts and money must go into to renewables. We have to focus on the bigger picture, our long-term future as a global community: the partnership between human beings and the natural world.

A coming back to Life of our relationship to our planet Earth.

(painting of an Eastern Curlew by Candy van Rood)

OF SEAWEED AND SAND  By Hannah Lewis

OF SEAWEED AND SAND By Hannah Lewis

I started coming to Balnarring Beach for holidays when I was 6 years old and moved permanently to Balnarring 36 years ago. This is my story.

My earliest memories of Balnarring are the mountains of seaweed that we clambered through as children and threw handfuls at each other, watching my grandfather cook large periwinkles in a saucepan and being awestruck by the rockpools full of Neptune’s Necklace and sea lettuce out on the rocky shelf.

When my parents built a house in 1972, their block, covered in pigface was planted out over 4 decades with eucalypts and other trees that provided perches for sulphur crested cockatoos and koalas. It became a thriving habitat.

My memories of being a teenager are of catching flounder and garfish by spotlight at night with a spear and net, eating whiting and leatherjacket caught out on the bay by my dad and riding bikes around the streets of the Balnarring and Merricks foreshore, clambering up to the cave in Merricks (now filled with plastic foam) and imagining who might have sat there 100 years before me. Days of hot pink sunburnt skin and peeling noses and slathering ourselves with coconut oil and ‘bronze’ tanning lotion.

I remember the quaint dark green fibro and weatherboard post office and milk bar, now Tulum café, and the old store in a gravel carpark with iced over freezer chests, where the shopping centre now is.

A decade later and we were settled in Balnarring with three kids, buying icy poles for them on 38-degree Summer days and taking them for swims at Balnarring Beach and Merricks Beach after school. Summer brought Nippers at Point Leo, followed by surfing lessons with local legend Prue Latchford at the East Coast surf school. At 36 and 35, the boys still come back here to surf as often as they can and my daughter comes to share the beach of her childhood with her 5 and 2 year old.

My nostalgic memories of the bay and beaches were replaced by a different level of understanding when I had the privilege to work as an educator for over 25 years at Western Port Secondary College in Hastings. I worked with CERES Environment Park and Mornington Peninsula Shire Council to get our school accredited as a sustainable school. This started my journey into informed environmental awareness. I was involved in a range of arts based and environmental projects with Peninsula Health, Warringine Park and the shire.

I learnt from rangers Sean Wilmore and Gerard Cooke what a unique and special place Warringine Park is, from its ephemeral creeks and wetlands through to the southernmost coastal mangroves. As part of the school’s year 9 program, VCE biology and environmental science curriculum we walked its trails, boardwalks and beaches with 100s of students learning about its rich history and its incredible environmental value as a Ramsar wetland. We were incredibly lucky to have this as a local living, breathing resource.

I watched a year 8 boy gut and fillet a fish, like an expert, on a fishing expedition and fished off the Crib Point jetty with year 9s. Some of the boys would bring fresh fish to school, in an esky, for their favourite teachers after a weekend’s fishing. I travelled by ferry with the year 7s for over a decade, to get to their annual camp at Phillip Island, marvelling at the dolphins and whales we were lucky enough to spot, just out from Crib Point.

I was invited to take a group of students into the squelching mud of the marine park mangroves to observe and film a senior marine biologist from The Melbourne Museum and university students, carry out a core drilling exercise, the first one to take place since the 1970s.

The work I did at the school gave me a new lens on Western Port Bay and privileged experiences. This was my education into the deeper beauty, value and fragility of this landscape and place.

While I had visited Warringine Park, Jacks Beach and the area around the Crib Point jetty numerous times, I hadn’t been to the site of the AGL proposal till 2 years ago when I went there to take photos at Woolley’s Beach and get a grasp of where it was in relation to the marine park and wetlands. The coastal reserve has healthy remnant indigenous habitat: coastal tea, tree, orchids and healthy grasses. It has been, until more recent times, a quiet, unspoilt place where people walk their dogs and have a picnic.

The FSRU development would be in horrifyingly close proximity to the wetlands, mangroves and shoreline habitat and the fragile ecosystems within.

So how do I feel about AGL, their tactics and their proposal?
I feel a simmering, relentless anger. I feel anguish, fear for our bay and, at times, despair.

My story only skims the story of my connection to this place. I live it, breath it, walk it every day. When I pull the blind up in my bedroom in the morning, I glimpse its blue.

My roots are here. Its salty spray, Winter winds and bird cries are in my veins. It uplifts me, cleanses me and holds me close. Sometimes, when the wind is right, I can even hear its soothing waves at night.

I want this bay to be pristine and unspoilt for my grandchildren and future generations of children. Future generations don’t deserve to lose the joy and memories that this place offers. I want its mangroves, mudflats, shoreline and blue waters to remain healthy and the marine life and migratory birds to be put before profit and corporate greed. I don’t want its gentle landscape to be adulterated by an FSRU nearly twice the size of the MCG and 17 stories high.