Westernport Shoreline Vigil

Westernport Shoreline Vigil

At sunset on Mid-winter’s Eve, Westernport locals took to their favourite beaches in uncounted numbers for a socially-distanced Shoreline Vigil to light a candle in a show of affection and support for Westernport and of opposition to AGL 

From Flinders through Shoreham, Point Leo, Merricks, Balnarring, Somers, Crib Point,  Hastings and around the Bay to French and Phillip Islands and beyond, we stood vigil to symbolise our determination to stand by Westernport.

As people become aware that AGL’s gas proposal would exacerbate the climate crisis and lock us in to decades more fossil fuel use, there’s a growing sense of anger that AGL is not listening to the community.

More and more people are prepared  to do whatever’s necessary to protect the Bay from the exploitation and degradation of new heavy industry, like AGL’s gas import proposal at Crib Point.

There’s a growing expectation on AGL to live up to their own policies that make admirable claims about their performance in sustainability and accountability, by withdrawing their Environment Effects Statement (EES), which is due to go on display in early July.

These qualities that matter to an informed public are also increasingly influencing international markets as they continue to divest en masse from last century’s energy technologies .

The Westernport community will be making the most of the opportunity for the public to comment once the EES goes on display, by expressing our fervent opposition to AGL’s ill advised plans. 

We believe AGL has an excellent opportunity to lead in the real energy transition as it gathers pace on every front, rather than continuing to promote the deeply concerning view that gas is a transition fuel and ‘a safer option than coal’.

We’ll let you know when the Environment Effects Statement goes on display in early July. AGL’s reports will all be available online.  Public comments will be open for just 40 days. Save Westernport and Environment Victoria encourage you to make a submission against the AGL gas import proposal in Westernport Bay during that time.

Submissions from the public don’t have to be technical. To make sure Minister Wynne’s hears your views, we’ll be providing assistance and support during the public comments stage.

You can read more about the EES in the Mornington Peninsula News, and sign up here to receive our regular Newsletter updates.

Thanks 

Julia
Secretary Save Westernport Inc
secretary@gmail.com

AGL’s EES due for release.

AGL’s EES due for release.

It’s been a year since we delivered over 17,000 signatures to Brett Redman’s stunt double (after the AGL CEO reneged on his agreement to meet with us), and AGL’s plans to import gas seem more absurd now than they did then. Some of the gas AGL plans to import may have originated here in Victoria, before being sold offshore .

Yet AGL has submitted these plans to the Planning Minister for assessment in an Environment Effects Statement that has taken nearly 2 years to prepare. The EES reports are expected to be released for public comment, even as demand for gas plummets and better options abound.

AGL’s competitors at VIVA Energy announced a similar project last week that would require no new gas pipeline. It would be preferable if no new gas infrastructure is built, but there’s no doubt the Geelong site would be far more suitable than AGL’s Westernport plans. Within range of the  hazard facilities that LNG operations require, Geelong would be far safer than AGL’s proposed Crib Point location, near residential communities, and primary schools. 

AGL’s project could spell disaster for local communities, for Westernport’s internationally recognised Ramsar wetlands, and for our climate. A few dozen jobs, that AGL admits would not employ locals, but would require trained operators from other LNG projects, could never offset the loss of amenity, and precious peace and quiet that this project would cause.

As part of the EES assessment, Minister Wynne must consider whether the proponent has demonstrated an ability to manage risks and operate according to the law. AGL’s past record of fines and convictions does nothing to instil confidence. 

Local communities in Westernport have told AGL in every way possible; they will not accept living alongside the risk of catastrophic failure, knowing AGL’s past performance of environmental mismanagement, industrial accidents and toxic spills.

Members of Save Westernport have complied a growing list of AGL’s infractions that leave us in no doubt; we do not want them as our neighbour for the next 20 years!

To help us make a compelling submission when the EES is released, Save Westernport and Environment Victoria have started planning our response. We’re seeking people who would like to
A) join our working groups,      or
B) appear as expert witnesses in the EES Hearings later this year. 

There are numerous areas of concern: migratory birds, water/ air/ noise/ light pollution, marine mammals, endangered species, health and psychological effects, climate change, aboriginal cultural heritage, Ramsar, impacts on tourism, economic disadvantage, pipelines, hydrology, tidal flows, shipping, gas markets and more.
You can contact us here for more information.

Save Westernport and Environment Victoria will be encouraging community groups and individuals  to make submissions against AGL’s dirty gas plans once the EES goes on display. 

Few people would be more profoundly affected than members of this community, so it’ll be essential for Mr Wynne to hear our views on why this choice of location is so unsound. 

A project can be rejected if its potential effects on the community and/or the environment are considered too great. Based on the information AGL has made available about their gas import proposal, (see reports below) we are in no doubt that it would do nothing but disadvantage our community, degrade the environment and provide profits for the proponent AGL.

AGL has never attempted to prove their claim that gas is urgently needed to supply Victorian families and businesses. Importing cheap gas would benefit AGL, but at what cost to the local environment and the wider climate crisis? 

You can sign up here for our regular Newsletter Updates or contact us secretary@savewesternport.org with questions about the EES. Some of our members with experience in environmental law and the EES process agree that the more submissions the Minister receives from the public, the better. 

Once AGL’s EES reports are released we’ll have just 40 days to comment, and many chapters to read. We’ve been reviewing the reports that AGL prepared that led Minister Wynne to call for an EES   in 2018. 

It’s likely much of this information will still apply. 

AGL’s Cumulative Impacts Assessment on the Crib Point project
http://epbcnotices.environment.gov.au/_entity/annotation/38a0c105-4ecc-e811-a2e6-005056ba00a8/a71d58ad-4cba-48b6-
8dab-f3091fc31cd5?t=1582460658615

AGL’s  Online Discussion Forum

Save Westernport on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/2359810567577342/posts/3268981323326924/

Minister’s announcement in WesternPort News http://www.mpnews.com.au/2020/06/09/ten-days-added-to-ees-process/

Its time to dump AGL

Its time to dump AGL

Friends,

Protecting Westernport Bay, our communities, and our climate means stopping
AGL and their dirty gas plans.

Nearly 5000 of you pledged to boycott AGL should they press on with their gas import terminal plans at Westernport. This week AGL have notified the community that the environmental assessment process will soon begin. AGL’s CEO Brett Redman also recently called for the government to fast track this assessment.

 

It’s clear that AGL have not listened to us.

So now we rally.

Now we show AGL that we mean business.

What: Online Rally against AGL
When: Tomorrow (Thursday 11 June) at 12pm-1:30pm AEST
Where: Online – RSVP here to get the Zoom link: https://envict.org/ditchAGL

Those of you who are AGL customers for your gas or electricity can show AGL we mean business, by changing to a new provider of your choosing.

You can make the switch during the rally tomorrow.
It’s simple to do – 
Here are two independent resources to help you decide which energy provider you’ll switch to:

  • Victorian Energy Compare (by the Victorian State government)
    https://compare.energy.vic.gov.au/retailers
  • Green Electricity Guide (by Greenpeace Australia Pacific)
    https://www.greenelectricityguide.org.au/

For those of us who ditched AGL some time ago, tomorrow we will take action to show
everyone else in our networks what AGL is trying to do.

If enough of us join, AGL will feel the heat.

I can’t wait to take action with you tomorrow!

Victor
on behalf of Environment Victoria and Save Westernport

EES Update from Minister Wynne

EES Update from Minister Wynne

EES UPDATE 

Last week the Victorian Minister for Planning announced how the Public Exhibition Stage of AGL’s Environment Effects Statement will be run. AGL have ignored public opposition to push ahead with their unnecessary gas import proposal in beautiful Westernport Bay.
Read what the Minster said here.

Since March this year Save Westernport has written to Minister Wynne twice asking him to postpone the Environment Effects Statement . This would be consistent with the many Government processes that have been pushed back due to the restrictions of COVID-19.
You can read Save Westernport’s letter to Minister Wynne here

Our letter to the Minister was supported by similar requests from diverse groups and individuals. Letters from Victoria National Parks Association (VNPA), Mornington Peninsula Shire Council’s Mayor Sam Hearn, and from concerned members of this community  represent just a fraction of the requests that the Minister received.

To enable us to make the strongest possible representation against AGL’s irresponsible plans, Save Westernport will need to meet the significant costs of engaging experienced legal council and expert witnesses to go up against AGL’s hired guns to represent this community’s interests at the EES Hearing.

It’s difficult to reconcile that it’s up to community groups like Save Westernport, with our limited resources, to go up against the vested interests of enormous corporations and the governments that support them, in order to demonstrate the extent of public opposition and concern about the destructive commercial exploitation of the natural environment.

Westernport’s significant marine ecology and remnant coastal ecosystems deserve the highest level of protection. But AGL’s long list of convictions and fines for toxic spills and environmental mismanagement makes you wonder if they are capable of overseeing the safe operation of a gas processing plant in a protected Ramsar wetland.

Although the EES offers Victoria’s highest level of environmental protection, whether or not Westernport’s internationally recognised marine ecosystems are compatible with the transport, processing and storage of LNG will now be assessed according to a process that is notoriously haphazard and relies on the discretion and views of just a single Minister. 

In the Mornington Peninsula News last week Save Westernport was quoted “It is essential that the Victorian Minister for Planning remains beyond the influence of the project proponent AGL”.

Prioritising a sustainable future for our local economy, and of people’s health and well-being above the encroachment of  industry and the threat of new fossil fuels projects will  require the organisation and power of a unified community.

Our effectiveness during the EES Hearing will depend on the amount of money we’re able to raise to fund our legal representation and technical advice. On the homepage of our website we have a DONATE button. https://savewesternport.org/  

We ask you to consider what you’re able to contribute towards this community’s representation during the EES , and decide what the value of a healthy future for Westernport is worth to you.

It was our hope that the Minister would agree to this community’s repeated request to defer the EES while COVID-19 restrictions remain in place. His decision that it will proceed will mean that while people’s lives are still disrupted by COVID-19, and many continue working and schooling their kids from home, we will have just 40 days (instead of 30) to respond to the thousands of pages of Technical reports AGL has contracted its experts to prepare in support of their application.

Without doubt these reports will claim that any disadvantages AGL may cause to the health, the economy, the environment, the people or the climate can all be justified, because the project is considered financially viable. The only thing of any consequence to AGL. as proponent of this ill-advised project, is whether they can expect to profit from it. For Westernport, so much more is at stake.

For the past two years, Members of Save Westernport have spent countless hours to fight and delay AGL’s proposal. It’s time now for the Westernport community to concentrate their opposition and determination to make sure this ill-advised proposal never gets approved.

The AGL reports will be released sometime before the end of June. 
During the EES hearing we’ll require expert witnesses, and people to help us write a strong submission against AGL.

If you know someone with experience in the following key areas, please contact us at secretary@savewesternport.org
We hope to raise enough money to fund this work.

  • Endangered Species
  • Ramsar Wetlands
  • Social, Economic, Loss of Amenity, Planning Impacts
  • Pollution: Air Water Light Noise
  • Bushfire/Risk/Safety

Save Westernport will be encouraging and supporting community members to write their own submissions against the AGL proposal, When we have any further information, we’ll let you know. 

You can register on our website for our regular Newsletter updates, and BECOME A MEMBER of Save Westernport. https://savewesternport.org/  

Your support now is more important, and more appreciated than ever as we prepare to Save Westernport from AGL.

Warm Regards,
Julia Stöckigt, Secretary SWP Inc

Please contact us at secretary@savewesternport.org

 

 

An overview of environmental impact assessment under the Environment Effects Act 1978

An overview of environmental impact assessment under the Environment Effects Act 1978

Courtesy of Environmental Justice Australia

To read this important ‘Having your say’ paper, please go to this link
Please note that although these fact sheets focus on mines and quarries, the Environment Effects Statement (EES)
process will be the same for the AGL gas import project.

CASSANDRA CALLING

CASSANDRA CALLING


(click on the images for more about this book)

 

An essay by Peg Mcguire

 

… the concept of conservation faces enormous, apparently almost hopeless odds. Already much of the biological and environmental damage is nearly irreversible … the outspoken conservationist is seen as a Cassandra prophesying woe – he may be right but he will not be popular.[1]

 The present sees us bedevilled and bewildered by frightening new realities on home soil, the inescapable effects of climate change that wrought wildfires across tropical rainforests and temperate coastal beaches alike followed on its heels by the invisible pandemic entailing unemployment and social isolation. It is surely now inconceivable that AGL continue to bribe and bully its way to restart the rampant destruction of marine, island and mainland habitat on a monumental scale? If AGL succeeds, its mega-plant will obliterate all prospects but itself from the foreshore. With banksias still blackened by an arsonistʼs fire four years ago, the prospect of fire onboard the robotic liquification plant is catastrophic; ignition would begin a fireball a kilometre across.

Woolleyʼs Beach is at the heart of Westernport and remains central to the struggle for the preservation of its huge coastal nursery and bears the wounds of 20th century industrialisation. Take the now alienated, heavily polluted elevated ground in Disney St fronting the Esplanade with its flat, far-reaching views. In 1963 Victorian Premier Henry Bolt colluded with British Petroleum to create an oil refinery here built to last for generations aided by excessive subsidies for infrastructure. Abruptly closed down some twenty years later and abandoned, now known locally as the ‘tank farmʼ, pampas grass prospers, a vestige of the original, sweeping landscaping. [2] Only the award winning 1965 Administration Building below was preserved and is now serving as a militaristic maritime museum.

In 2020, Crib Point is at the heart of AGLʼs grandiose, global plans just as it was for the industrialists last century. Overlooking the long jetty built to span the shallows and reach the channel, once so largely gifted to BP, AGL eyes the bay hungrily; their impatience grows. Ordered to halt all works while an ecological survey is made, AGL has nevertheless made preparatory moves. Their access via Woolleyʼs Rd has been considerably upgraded since, presumably paid for, not by AGL, but by the responsible authority, Vic Roads. Then just a month ago, alerted by Save Westernport members, the local paper spread a front page photo of a bulldozer having gutted out the foreshore vegetation; the caption read:

The Save Westernport group has described as “appalling” the clearing of several hectares of native bushland at the proposed site of the AGL floating storage and regasification unit at Crib Point jetty. Contractors hired by the Port of Hastings Development Authority used a bulldozer and backhoe for the works. [Westernport News 10.03.20]

The collusion apparent between the private company and our public entity is a recurrent, grave concern.

A previous incarnation of a Save Westernport movement began in 1970 to protest the usurpation and despoliation of the western foreshore between Tyabb and Stony Point by energy-hungry industries. We felt it was high time to reveal how the plan to destroy Western Port began, who will profit from it and how Australia will lose if it isnʼt stopped.

Henry Bolte had headed the Liberal Government since 1955 and as its treasurer had determined a policy of ‘Selling Victoriaʼ overseas, discretely courting industrial investors while currying public favour at home by mocking and vilifying trade unions, intellectuals, protesters and the press. By the mid 60s, the rich oil deposits deep under the turbulent waters of Bass St could be safely accessed with the new technology in machinery. Bolte boasted that he would birth the biggest container port in the country and that Westernport would be Victoriaʼs Ruhr. His vision was pinned on the illusion that Westernport was naturally serviced by a deep water channel when, subject to shifting shallows of mud and sand banks, it requires dredging. Planning was in the hands of the Westernport Regional Planning Committee, including accomodating local councillors untroubled by pollution, dirt and noise and more immediately preoccupied with profiting from rising real estate prices. Bolte, at the zenith of his remarkable political career, pushed through two more projects, the Esso plant on Long Island 1967 and Lysaght steel in Hastings 1970.

For the first three years of the 1970s a civil campaign was fought to highlight these egregious planning decisions and to defy the further industrialisation of Westernport, climaxing in a public rally at the Melbourne Town Hall in March 1972. Central to this hard fought campaign was a drive for signatures on a petition protesting further incursions of industry to be delivered to the Federal Parliament after the March rally.

Poet, conservationist and activist, Judith Wright, identified as the inaugural President of the Wildlife Protection Society of Queensland, was invited to be the key speaker. A squatterʼs granddaughter of the New England Tableland, she had begun question her colonial inheritance in 1962 with a growing awareness of the destruction her immediate forbears inflicted. In lectures and essays Wright explored the new science of conservation – not the museum concept of preserving species but the preservation of whole ‘ecosystemsʼ. She studied the new terms, ecology and biosphere and pinned a moment of human change in our attitude to the planet back to the astronautʼs view of it in 1969 as small, frail and beautiful. Wright, widowed with a young adult daughter, was finding a bigger, engaged audience among the idealistic young who could afford their altruism, eager to be friends and defenders of Spaceship Earth. She highlighted the potential for a humanist dimension in new science:

The newly emerged concept we have called conservation, and its allied science of ecology … are concerned with life. They hold the possibility, at least of an imaginative participation in a life-process which includes us, and to which we contribute our own conscious knowledge of it, as part of it, not separate from it.

Aware that her ideas left her open to the mockery of contemporary philosophers who derided terms like value and meaning, Wright acknowledged the role of the emotions in our apprehension of art and nature, challenging the touted objectivity of science. Art and science are two creativities free to work together rather than serving as opposing forces. If we fail to win this reconciliation, the machinery we invent to serve our needs will instead rule us: …

we also have a responsibility for seeing that [our planet] does not become so poor and ugly, so polluted by our waste-products, so monotonous and unvaried by other existences than those of human beings, so generally unpleasant to live in, that we all develop mental illnesses and die of mutual hatred, boredom and distaste.

Judith Wrightʼs support mattered because of her national reputation; she was knowledgeable about environmental issues across the country from the march of the desert in arid interiors to the erosion of coastal wetlands. Living on Mt Tamborine within a walk of the views from the edge of the rainforest with its distant prospect of the high rise on the Gold Coast at waterʼs edge growing ever closer; she was intimately involved in protecting the rich wetlands along the Coral Sea, and prominent in the protests against mining the coloured sands at Cooloola and the oil and limestone miners coveting the Great Barrier Reef. Moreover she understood the power and persuasions of their autocratic Premiers. The ingenue Jo Bjelke Petersen had swept the National Party to power in 1968, seeking the Victorianʼ Liberalʼs support and modelling himself on Bolteʼs public persona, posing as a simple farmer while scheming with the rich and powerful. Money is power Wright noted and power in a hurry.

Wright would have been sent sent a copy of an ambitious booklet published by the Save Westernport Coalition in the winter of 1971 and consisting of 24 pages of text and image. It is a remarkably concise publication condensing large complicated ideas into coherent, persuasive arguments and selling for just 30cents. Here she learnt that wild Westernport Bay was in danger by plans to improve access to onshore industry by infilling the muddy shallows – demonstrated in their opening pages with Keith Tarrantʼs bespoke aerial photograph of Lysaghts building a kind of causeway reaching out into the bay. (At just 10% of the infill planned, these works destroyed some 70% of the seagrass; abalone divers working off French Island recalled diving into waving neck-high stands of seagrass). The fill came from dredging including some from slopes bulldozed on their property and granite from Arthurs Seat.

This rare booklet could only have come from the collaboration of an informed collective else the specificity of each page and each issue would not have crystallised. The eight members of the editorial committee were careful at all points to be precise and accurate. Mild looking now, it was as innovative as it was unequivocal. Printed on one of the new offset lithography presses which allowed new freedoms in lay-out, it begins dramatically with an almost square cover printed black with the title highlighted in white: ʼTHE SHAME OF WESTERNPORT Speculatorʼs Dream … Environmental Nightmareʼ.

Sixteen organisations worked together under the title, the Save Western Port Coalition, to publicise the beleaguered Bay so close to the capital yet remaining unknown and content in its bucolic obscurity. They argued that the capital and beyond needed to be informed as the locals live to live with the consequences. Melbourne was changing, Hare Krishnas added music and colour on the streets, women were claiming rights equal to menʼs; soon a generation of ordinary young Australians would be suddenly free to get a higher education. Monash University was rising from the paddocks of Bundoora and, like the nearby new art school in Preston, determined to make change. The Coalition aimed to bring together artists, scientists, students and other citizens concerned to protect the future. Flanking a column of text headed The City of No Escape is a futuristic photomontage showing a flattened landscape lost under factories and a confusion of freeways:

A decision to industrialise Western Port would turn Melbourne into an unending metropolis from Wonthaggi to Geelong.

There were particulars of the pollution traps combining a variety of effluents, quoting a crowd of Australian scientists from their statement to the press in May 1971:

This faith [in technology] is unfounded … The web of life which nurtured man for a million years and on which man depends for his survival is falling to pieces.

The peculiar shape of the bay was in itself a pollution haven Wright read. The editors included the findings of a Master of Business Administration survey showing the cost of treating effluent prohibitive because it never left the shallow bay but was washed back shorewards by every returning tide. Altona was cited as the better option.

John Iggulden is listed at the head of the editorial committee. Born and raised in Brighton he had been a champion glider, the inaugural president of the Port Phillip Conservation Society and a talented writer. The editors concur with the emphasis Wright put on intuition, declaring themselves unashamed

to lay the case for all sorts of emotional things like penguins and seals and clean beaches. We need these more than oil refineries.

The broad format of ʼThe Shameʼ was chosen to advantage the impact of their arguments by incorporating a range of media as a parallel persuasion. It was designed to capture the largest amount of attention, printed in large numbers and available for 30 cents, the price of a good coffee perhaps. A page of newspaper banners, cuttings cobbled together, faces text on the other outlining the Secret Plans of the notorious Westernport Regional Planning Authority before giving way over-page to the contrasting pristine nature photos of Elizabeth Wilkins, one of three women listed as editors (and the only one not married within the Coalition.) This suite of Wilkinsʼ photos highlighted the wildlife on French Island all 84 acres of which the planners roundly declared worthless land, a fine place, they were told for a nuclear reactor.

As the date for the Melbourne rally grew closer, the outspoken journalist, Rohan Rivett whose most likely informant from the Coalition was John Iggulden, brought both sides of the argument under sustained scrutiny. Grandson of Alfred Deakin and son of the first head of the emerging CSIRO, Rivett remained unafraid of controversy, unpopularity and the cost of libel suits. He was writing on politics in Melbourne for ʼThe Canberra Timesʼ [02.02.1972] as Rupert Murdoch refused to employ him in Flinders St. Given generous space on p 2 his title read ʼNew Look at Forgotten Landʼ with a small map inserted below showing the contested western coastline between Tyabb and Flinders in relation to Melbourne.

Rivett acknowledged that the amount of attention conservationists were gaining had been unimaginable even six years earlier. 15,000 had signed Save Westernportʼs petition and more were expected to before the final collection at the rally. (Signatories included ACTU President Bob Hawke, artist John Perceval and architect Robin Boyd.) Nevertheless Rivett was confident so long as Bolted was Premier, he would rule supreme, concluding:

It may be too late for the sluggish forces of the conservationists to arrest Sir Henryʼs biggest scheme but there is every prospect of some ‘braw an bluidyʼ fighting before the critics succumb.

Wright was courted in a manner that mattered to her, given the chance to see for herself the territory that needed defending. Arriving in Melbourne she was met by Coalition members who took her on a day tour along the shores of Westernport. At least one journalist accompanied them. At Woolleyʼs beach she studied the shallow crib-like shape of the deceptively small-looking bay foreshortened by a profile of the Dandenongs to the east, by the bulk of French Island extending a long finger of land low enough to show the rising hills of South Gippsland beyond and pointing to Phillip Island and rounded off by Stony Point, shielding the long view to Flinders. Behind her she saw the last of the wildflowers blooming on unploughed land. The Age reporter quoted her otherwise private advice to the Coalition:

Because you have put up a big resistance, a few concessions will be made to you. There will be a hurried ecological survey of some kind there will be promises about effluent disposal you will be told it is possible to have the best of both worlds … But of course it wonʼt work. You are to be the Ruhr of Australia.

At the Rally that evening the poet and mistress of rhetoric did not hold back. To the audience of 2000 she began:

Nobody ever refers to your opposition as a coalition to wreck Westernport … itʼs a coalition to wreck the planet … It is made up of the forces of progress (a holy word I believe, I breathe it carefully), of industry, and technology, and money. And it owns the world, financially at least. It has a motto ‘Progress and Profit before Peopleʼ and it pays for nothing extra – like planning for the environment – unless itʼs forced to pay. To all intents and purposes, this force does own the world but we live in the world, and some of us are willing to fight for it.

It was at this rally that Wright welcomed the word ‘Greeniesʼ coined by government bureaucrats as an insult to protesting conservationists. The rally concluded festively with Glen Tomasetti singing her latest, ‘Here Come the Greeniesʼ. [The Age 2.2.72]

The shift the Coalition made from a local to a national audience would bring their quixotic campaign to a satisfactory conclusion aided by Boltʼs unexpected resignation from politics late in 1972. He foresaw his power evaporating in the changing society he had dominated for so long; he had watched as Liberal plans to open up the Little Desert for settlement were overturned in the courts giving victory to the environmentalists. Unlike his northern protege, dreaming of becoming Prime Minister but heading for k. l. m. corruption charges, Bolte saw the writing on the wall, resigning just months before Whitlam headed the Labor Party to victory.

Where the first generation of modern conservationists needed to outface the corruption of the Westernport Regional Planning Authority and the might of international capital, we face the obscurantism and evasions of the Port of Hastings Development Authority – last reconstituted and renamed in 2012. Today their website opens at a page with an image of industry at waterʼs edge brandishing big words: Naturally Deep & Positioned for Growth, surely another nod to AGL. We are back at the lie that Westernport is accessible to large craft through a naturally deep channel running between the islands and the mainland, the Speculatorʼs Dreaming of the 1960s. The deep water ceases at Sandy Point. [4]

Note:

  1. In the legend Cassandraʼs predictions prove correct but it is her fate never to be believed. My citations from Judith Wrightʼs essays on conservation in ʼBecause I Was Invitedʼ 1975 Oxford University Press.
  2. The Victorian Government came up with a novel strategy for housing the new workforce of refinery workers nearby. They could select a site to build their house on a 99 year lease, owning the house but not  the land which was then and is reserved by the Port Authority for container storage. I watched the last owner-built dwelling removed from the Esplanade just last year. This discrete arrangement explains the abundance of redundant driveways on weed-infested ground in lower Disney St, and along Bay St (the only housing remaining in view of the foreshore are some few brick dwellings built for officers from Cerberus.) The obscurity shrouding who owns what where and for what purpose grows.
  3. The first on the list was a 1970 colour film ‘Turn of the Tideʼ which had its origins in the Department of Engineering at m. n. Monash when twelve engineering students were allowed to leave the laboratory for fieldwork to study the effects the three new industries were having on the ecology of Westernport. A copy was deposited at the State Film Centre and incorporated into ACMI. It is yet to be seen as the Centre is closed at present.
  4. The Preserve Western Port Action Group ‘A Discussion Paperʼ presented to the Victorian Parliament 2014 prompted by plans for a container port in Hastings. [parliament.vic.gov.au]
AGL have delivered their EES report to DELWP

AGL have delivered their EES report to DELWP

In the final week of April, Save Westernport received some important news about the Environment Effects Statement, or EES for the Crib Point proposal. According to AGL, the reports for their Gas Import proposal have now been submitted to the Department for Environment Land Water and Planning, (DELWP). 

Although we’ve been waiting nearly 2 years for the opportunity to read the details of AGL’s plans and raise our concerns about the project, many are now wondering “how can the Public Exhibition period required for the EES possibly go ahead under current COVID-19 restrictions?” 
AGL’s apparent push for the EES to proceed without consideration for the implications of the current state of emergency on people’s lives is consistent with the contempt they’ve shown this community and its wishes ever since their incursion into Westernport began in 2017.                                                                                                                

It is essential that the Minister remains beyond the influence of AGL. By making use of his discretionary powers, he can ensure that the EES does not proceed in a way that is rushed or that appears to give the proponent an advantage. Compromising the effectiveness of the EES to accomodate the proponent would be highly inappropriate, particularly if it incorporates new untried methods that could be seen to discourage community involvement or that limit the effectiveness of their contribution. 
No precedent exists for an EES to be held only online.

The Save Westernport Steering Committee strongly believes that the EES must not proceed under these conditions, and we have emailed the Victorian Minister for Planning Richard Wynne, asking him to postpone the Public Exhibition phase until the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic have been lifted. (See below)

We urge you to support our request to the Minister by emailing or calling his office today. Please tell him the Public Exhibition stage must be postponed to allow the community to engage in an EES process that is balanced and fair – and is perceived as such. 
You are welcome to incorporate parts of our example letter , or use it to inspire your own.
Please send it torichard.wynne@parliament.vic.gov.au

We would very much appreciate it (optional ofcourse!) if you could BCC us in to your email to the Minister using this address:
secretary@savewesternport.org

  • Call Mr Wynne at his Parliamentary office: (03) 8683 0964

  • Inform our local Members and other Ministers. Let’s make sure our political leaders are in no doubt about the extent of this Community’s opposition to to AGL’s plans and concern about the way its environmental impacts will be assessed.
    This list makes it easy, just click on each Members’ email to send them a message (and bcc us in), or call them to make your views known. 

Federal Member for Flinders  Greg Hunt     (03) 5977 9082
greg.hunt.mp@aph.gov.au           

Victorian Minister for Environment and Energy, Lily d’Ambrosio lily.d’ambrosio@parliament.vic.gov.au      9637 9504

Premier  Daniel Andrews    03 9651 5000   daniel.andrews@parliament.vic.gov.au  

Victorian Member for Nepean    (03) 5986 6661.  
chris.Brayne@parliament.vic.gov.au
     

Victorian Member for Hastings   (03) 5977 5600
neale.burgess@parliament.vic.gov.au     

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas   (03) 9741 1133. tim.pallas@parliament.vic.gov.au

Victorian Minister for Ports Melissa Horne     03 8392 8020   Melissa.Horne@parliament.vic.gov.au

Please consider the urgency of this request, and write to Mr Wynne and your Ministers today.

Our request will have far more impact if it is supported by you.

Please forward this information to everyone you know who opposes AGL’s plans in Westernport, asking them to also appeal to Minister Wynne to insist that the time frame for the EES is reassessed in the context of COVID-19.

——————————————————————————————————————————————-

Save Westernport’s letter to Minister Richard Wynne:                                                                                                                     30 March 2020 

The Hon Richard Wynne MP                                                                                    Minister for Planning PO Box 500                                                                                                               East Melbourne 3002

Dear Minister 

Re Crib Point AGL gas import jetty and APA Crib Point-Pakenham gas pipeline (2018-R05) Environment Effects Statement: Request for delay in exhibiting the EES due to COVID -19 until the pandemic is over

As you’re aware, Save Westernport Inc is a community group representing many thousands of people around the Mornington Peninsula and Westernport Bay who are deeply concerned about the potential impacts of AGL’s Crib Point Gas Import Jetty and Pipeline proposal.

We are particularly concerned that AGL’s project continues to threaten the Westernport community, its Ramsar wetlands and many areas of high conservation value.

Based on the latest information from the proponents and DELWP, we understand that the exhibition period for this EES is currently scheduled to commence in late May to early June 2020.

In light of unprecedented Government measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are writing to request the postponement of the Exhibition period of this EES, until all current bans and shutdowns are lifted, and the pandemic has been declared over by W.H.O. and/or the Victorian government. 
Current COVID-19 restrictions go to the heart of how we operate and connect with our communities, and while the internet can provide some limited means of communication, we can no longer hold public meetings or work together collectively to plan our response to the proponents’ reports, and prepare for the various aspects of the EES, and the implications of AGL’s plans.

The exhibition phase is intended to be a period of widespread consultation, but current stay-at-home measures will prevent community organisations and the general public from effectively participating in this important part of the EES process.

The extent of public concern and interest regarding these proposals is immense. This is especially true on the Mornington Peninsula, and on Phillip and French Islands, where it’s unlikely most communities will have ready access to either a physical copy of the EES, or to reliable internet services to download the material.

The Public Exhibition period is called this because under the Act, copies of the proponents’ reports are exhibited, or made available in local libraries for the public to view. We are concerned that current lockdown restrictions that require the closure of public libraries will make it impossible for the public to view these documents. These restrictions will continue for the foreseeable future.

Our advice from DELWP has been that this is among the most complex EESs ever undertaken in Victoria. The proponents’ reports are likely to be highly technical and voluminous. This is because AGL’s proposal is extremely complex and essentially comprises two projects in one: the FSRU floating gas factory, for which there is no precedent in Australia, and the 56km high pressure LNG pipeline, through protected wetlands and productive market gardens.

After waiting nearly two years for these reports to be finalised, we are extremely concerned that the community’s opportunity to submit their objections to the proposal will be severely compromised.

Attempting to hold this EES online would severely restrict public involvement, and result in far fewer submissions—an outcome that would greatly greatly benefit the proponents, AGL.

Without effective participation, the EES process will be deeply flawed and will not be representative of relevant and widespread community perspectives and views on this proposed project.  

The Hearing during public inquiry phase could not be held at all under current conditions as this involves public meetings and presentations that will also need to be delayed.

According to the Ministerial Guidelines the EES process is designed to be flexible. We strongly submit this project is exceptional; it is unique and its impacts are both extensive and long term. Accordingly, we respectfully ask that you apply your discretionary power to postpone the EES. 

Business-as-Usual cannot apply in these difficult and unprecedented times of COVID-19  pandemic. We appreciate your considered and timely response to our urgent request in the current exceptional circumstances.

Yours  sincerely                

Secretary, Save Westernport Inc.                                                 

 

 

Continue reading “AGL have delivered their EES report to DELWP”

EPBC Act Review public submissions UPDATE- now open til May 1  2020

EPBC Act Review public submissions UPDATE- now open til May 1 2020

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is under review for the first time in many years.

IMPORTANT UPDATE :
The Public Comments period has just been extended!
The EPBC website now states that the initial April 17 deadline for submissions has now been extended til May 1 2020

It is vital that members of our community make submissions to this EPBC Act review to ensure that laws relating to inappropriate industrial developments in Ramsar wetlands, such as the proposed AGL gas import terminal project in Westernport Bay, are not modified or watered-down.
 
Why not make a Submission to tell the review panel why you care about making sure Australia’s environmental protection laws are strong enough to do what they are supposed to do…protect the environment?
These Laws must be strong enough to stand up to proposals driven by profit over the protection of native wildlife and habitat. They must not facilitate bad developments or make it easier for irresponsible industries to gain approvals, or “regulate themselves”. The Laws must guarantee that decisions and approvals processes for all new developments prioritise the conservation of our precious water and endangered ecosystems.

Some possible suggestions could be:
> The EPBC review panel is currently weighted towards industry and the economy, with several members with those backgrounds, and  lacks anyone with experience in environmental conservation and biodiversity or even with a background in science. 
This insufficiency is deeply concerning when the gravity and significance of this review is considered, with all its repercussions.

> The Act must acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the Traditional Owners of this Country, and consultation processes should be adapted and extended to incorporate the oral traditions where appropriate for sharing knowledge on Country, Culture and Law.

> New industrial proposals must comply with accepted Climate Emergency goals that limit temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees, and must only be approved if  it can be shown that they’re  
entirely necessary and preferable to the ‘no project’ scenario. Economic benefit alone is insufficient to offset any risks or impacts of a new project.

>New projects that make use of sites already degraded by industry must be prioritised over projects requiring further destruction or degradation of established or regenerating native habitat.
 
> Measures aimed at making it simpler for new projects to be approved (such as the current “One-stop-shop” goal for approvals) really should be beyond the scope of Environmental Protection laws.

> It is incumbent on Environmental protection laws to look first and foremost at the likely impacts of new projects on the proposed site, on its setting and on the areas beyond it, particularly concerning the management of wastewater and effluent from Industry and impacts on  high value conservation areas.

The EPBC Act is Australia’s primary national environmental legislation and this statutory review commenced on 29 October 2019 with Professor Graeme Samuel AC appointed as the independent reviewer. An Expert Panel has been appointed with three members: Bruce Martin, Erica Smyth and Wendy Craik – see member details here

This review will examine the EPBC Act, how it operates and consider changes needed to ensure the Act can manage current and future environmental challenges.

The EPBC Act is designed to regulate activities that may impact on environmental values of national importance.

These environmental values include Ramsar wetlands, native flora and fauna species, migratory species, protection of endangered species and biodiversity, national parks and marine parks, world heritage areas and our water resources.

Submissions may be made via the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website here.

To assist members of our community on how to write a submission, a guide and examples of EPBC Act submissions may be found here.

The EPBC Act review online submission form can be found here.

Further details on this review of the EPBC Act can be found here. 

The final report from this review will be available in October 2020.

~the people sign~rally for Westernport ~POSTPONED

~the people sign~rally for Westernport ~POSTPONED

Like everyone else, Save Westernport and Environment Victoria have been closely following the developments around COVID-19 and public health advice.

To reduce the risk to all of us of being exposed to the virus and ensure that our events are safe for everybody, we have made the decision to postpone the People Sign Beach Rally that was planned for Sunday March 29 on Somers Beach.

Instead, we will be meeting online on March 29 at 7:30pm to discuss our visions for protecting Westernport permanently from heavy industrialisation and pollution. You can RSVP here.

We believe this is the most responsible thing to do to ensure that we are not contributing to the spread of the virus, and to protect our collective health and all those that we have contact with in our daily lives. 

We are disappointed that these circumstances mean we can’t all gather together on March 29th but we are still excited about getting together online to talk about our visions for protecting our Bay permanently from heavy industrialisation and pollution.

You can RSVP here. Here is a how-to guide demonstrating how to use zoom for online meetings. If you would like a call beforehand to discuss how to use zoom, let us know by responding to this email. 

Even though COVID-19 has put a temporary break on our in-person protests and actions we are not giving up the fight. We will simply find new ways to express our outrage together and tell AGL to drop their plans for a gas import terminal in our Bay.

We will confirm new dates for the People Sign so that it can proceed at a later date that is safe for everyone.

Key things for your action now:

  1. RSVP to the zoom call.
  2. Let us know if you need a call from us to help you use zoom.

Can’t make this time? We will host a second webinar. Click here to let us know which time works for you.

If you have any questions, please contact me by responding to this email.

In solidarity, 
Victor Komarovsky
And the teams at Environment Victoria and Save Westernport

Julie Lyford OAM (Groundswell Gloucester) visits Crib Point

Julie Lyford OAM (Groundswell Gloucester) visits Crib Point

On Tuesday February 18th 2020, Save Westernport members and supporters gave a big welcome to Julie Lyford OAM.

Julie is the Chairperson of Groundswell Gloucester, a community group who were instrumental in 2016 in stopping AGL’s coal seam gas project (fracking) in Gloucester NSW as well as the ground-breaking climate legal decision in 2019 against the Rocky Hill coal mine proposal in the Gloucester valley to stop the mine from going ahead on environmental grounds.

Julie is the former Mayor of Gloucester and in 2015, she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to the Environment, Community and Local Government.

In her presentation to our Save Westernport meeting, Julie spoke about how the Gloucester community fought tooth and nail for 10 years to stop AGL from “fracking” in their precious valley.

Her advice to the audience was “Never to give in!” and to tell AGL “If they don’t discontinue their dangerous, floating gas factory proposal in your pristine UNESCO Biosphere and RAMSAR eco-system in Westernport Bay then you will do everything in your combined community power to ensure that the AGL brand will suffer which will seriously impact their bottom line.”

Julie told the audience that AGL knew that CSG exploration and fracking in the Gloucester basin and Manning Valley catchment could have serious risks of polluting water sources, agricultural lands and air quality.

After proving that the independent experts were correct, the Groundswell team with the collaboration of hundreds of individuals and over 32 organisations fought and won and saved the valley.

We thank Julie for making the long journey from Gloucester to Crib Point to share her knowledge of community action and her years of experience in fighting dangerous industrial developments.

Visit Groundswell Gloucester here.

“The Town That Said No To AGL” is a book about the battle for Gloucester by local residents against government and corporations – order your copy here.