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 to: email@example.com
We would very much appreciate it (optional ofcourse!) if you could BCC us in to your email to the Minister using this address:
- 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.
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
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.
Secretary, Save Westernport Inc.