Minna’s Story

Minna’s Story

I grew up in Balnarring but have lived in Coburg North for the last 6 years. I am lucky enough to still be connected and able to visit my parents (pre Covid lockdown) at this beachside paradise that I will always call home. It has always been a great pleasure and honour to share this special coastline with fellow travellers, and my loved ones over the years. I have many stories I could tell. Like the morning after my wedding day, when my husband and I felt the urgency to begin our own unique adventures as a wedded couple. Boarding a deflating blow up boat at Balnarring Beach, we rapidly gained speed, drifting out towards Philip Island. We began to realize the potential risk of our situation, witnessing all our most beloved lining the beach in distress. With panic rising, we started to paddle as fast as we could to shore, when my husband asked me in alarm, ‘Are there sharks here?’ Having noticed large shadows under our boat we quickly recognised the dolphins, who, once we arrived at shore exhibited a twirling display for us. We have since shared these same beaches with our two young children, exploring the rock pools for crabs and rolling in the waves.

It is through my distance from it that I have begun to understand more deeply the grounding that this place has offered me throughout my life. In particular, Merricks Beach is a place that I long for, and even visit in my imagination, for respite and nourishment. With the caves and coastal banksias, the memories of swimming with stingrays and in storms, this beach in particular, has offered me many moments of rapture. The beach stretching from Balnarring to Merricks, and less frequently to Somers, has soothed my soul. Even on colder days, a quick dip in the salty bay is enough to enliven the body; nestling my feet in the sand and allowing the wind to whip my worries away while I watch as the sunset welcomes the calm of night.

In moments of heart ache and sorrow the waves have soothed me. Their rhythm and consistency have reminded me that the world will continue to turn, even in times of pain and suffering. These same waves remind me that these are the unceded lands and waters of the Bunurong (Boon Wurrung) people; this bay can offer unconditional nourishment for generations to come, as it has so done for thousands of generations before.

I wonder who are the decision makers here, and how can they better honour the rightful custodians of these lands and waterways? In the name of ‘progress’ AGL offer yet another effort to dislocate and disregard our right and responsibility to a healthy ecosystem. While I hold hope, I also sit with dread for how much more could be destroyed before it’s realised we have lost too much.

Anne Tillig’s Heart Story

Anne Tillig’s Heart Story

My connection to Western Port Bay started in 1996 when we purchased land fronting the bay.  Elizabeth Island is now my home.  I feel lucky to wake up to the sight of Western Port Bay all around me, every day. 

Most days I circumnavigate the island in my pedal paddle kayak.  It takes just under an hour.  Then I jump in and swim for a while.  This connects me intimately to the water, the shoreline and the birdlife and leaves me feeling alive.

The bay is a special place that rewards for spending time with it.  Day by day it grows on you.  It doesn’t show its splendour at first.  It wants you to slow down, stop and be with it a while.  Over time you get to know its tidal shoreline.  Orange lichened rocks, ancient sandstone, pebbles, sand, mudflats that become lakes with the tides.  The shoreline has rockpools and mangroves with pink pigface and other plants with names like bidgee-widgee and beaded glasswort.  Fish of all sorts nurture their young amongst the mangroves.  In the bay are gummy sharks, King George whiting, snapper, Australian salmon.  We pluck oysters from the rocks and eat them fresh.  Pacific gulls and oyster catchers sit atop shoreline rocks, looking like they’re standing on water.  Herons and spoonbills stalk around the mudflats finding food.  Swallows, wrens and willy-wagtails eat the insects on land.

You can tell it’s a delicate balance of interwoven life.

I am horrified and aggrieved that any government would allow a private company to irreparably destroy our beautiful natural resources for their short-term gains.

My home, Elizabeth Island, and the bay, belong together.  The bay is integral to my life and my wellbeing.  I will soon be publishing a book about my relationship to this special place.  I want to share with you an excerpt from my upcoming book, which is about that relationship.  Elizabeth Island has grounded me and given me a sense of place.  The bay is integral to that.  This excerpt describes my first encounter with the island.

‘Half-dried sea grass lined the high-water mark.  It sat in a continuous line atop a shore of partially submerged brown pebbles and rocks. Shells washed smooth by the tides were caught in the browned sea grass.  Through the lifting light clouds, the sun warmed the brown and grey burnt sea grass salty bath to barely visible steam and marshy odours.

We ventured into the tussock grass above the shoreline, nervous about what might lie under the thick grass.  Two black swans glided past, poking out their necks at us, as if wondering what we were doing in their territory.  Other sea birds squawked and landed on the rocks.

I could tell this was a unique and special place.

Michael returned to the boat, concerned about the fast-running tide.  He got us all aboard and the boys pulled up anchor.

We began to circumnavigate the island, approaching the northern point.  We could see less than half a metre of water under the boat.  The fast receding tide forced us back. 

That was my first encounter with Elizabeth Island.  Tides ruled.  Back then I’d fancied myself as close to nature.  Many years on, I marvel at what slowly unfolded:  an engagement with that island and surrounding seas that brought me into a dance with nature I could never have imagined. 

The feel and direction of the winds, the heaviness of the rain, the height and direction of tidal flow, the seasons, moonlight, cloud cover, sunlight.  The response of the sea between the island and the mainland to daily, monthly and yearly cycles of the sun and moon – this all determined decisions about where and how to be, explore or do, on and around the island. 

Having so squeezed me into Elizabeth Island time, the surrounding sea would dance its moods to my passage on or off land.’

Westernport Bay surrounds my home and greets me with stunning vistas every day.  It is my home.

On most important things that happen or are about to happen around the bay, the instigators reach out to locals.  I have not seen this happening from AGL in the same way.  I am not aware of organised engagement by AGL with residents.  It is indicative of a disregard for the people and place they are impacting.  I wonder how much our government has engendered in them that stance.

I guess it’s difficult to comprehend that you would have to tell this to a government.  Of course, this proposed project will destroy our valuable bay and its delicate ecological balance. 

This development is on the other side of the bay to me, so I won’t see the visual impact.  I can’t imagine how it would be for anyone who walks that shoreline, to have to look at a large gas platform like that.  But I know the ecology of the bay is so interconnected, and we as humans are so interconnected, that I will notice the impact over on this side.  I have already noticed the effects of climate change.  There are fewer insects on the island now, and this means fewer land birds.  The special sea birds that used to be around feeding off the mudflats seem to have disappeared, replaced by hardier breeds.

We are already seeing the impact of climate change on our planet and our local environment.  It is a result of putting big business ahead of smart connected communities in healthy environments.  We want a government that will recognise what matters and put people and our environment first.  A government that approves this AGL project will not get my vote.

Anne Tillig

 

 

Save Westernport by John Butler

Save Westernport by John Butler

John has sent us this message:
‘To all the Victorian family who are doing it tough with COVID I’m sending you my love and prayers right now.
 
I was asked by some locals in Westernport Bay to help get their message out about protecting their beloved home.
 
These are very complex and turbulent times but we can’t let the fossil fuel industry use this moment as a massive chess game strategy to twist our state and federal governments arms to their will. If ANYTHING these already established resource companies, that have massively profited off the back of our nation, making BILLIONS of dollars every quarter, should be TAXED at least as much as I am to help with the economic fall out of COVID.
 
Here’s what the @savewesternport group would like you to know :
 
Save Westernport says AGL’s plan is an environmental and social disaster.
Right now it’s still just a plan. But AGL’s Environmental Effects Statement (EES) is now
up for public comment and it’s time to say
NO!
 
AGL is using its EES to get state government approval for it’s cancerous plan. AGL will say it can manage risks to people and the environment. AGL’s track record says otherwise.
From a 6,000 litre sulphuric acid leak to an ash slurry overflow into endangered woodlands, the company has left too much environmental wreckage in its wake.
But AGL doesn’t get it.
 
They don’t care that Westernport communities have said NO! to bad ideas for over 50 years.
So what have our communities stopped? A uranium enrichment plant on French Island; a petro-chemical plant destined to discharge waste into the ocean through a pipeline
crossing Phillip Island; the gouging of kilometre after kilometre of shorelines to make wharves
for heavy industry; a huge container terminal that stood to kill the bay’s sensitive wetlands;
aluminium smelters and processing for paper and zinc.
 
The list goes on.
 
Save Westernport has talked with thousands of locals, and we know what you want. You want
a real say about what happens in your towns and communities. You want a clean bay that’s
safe for the people, businesses and wildlife that rely on it. You want an economy that protects
the beauty and promise of this incredible place.’
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Help Stop AGL. Get help with your EES submission!

Help Stop AGL. Get help with your EES submission!

It’s no surprise that people are feeling daunted by AGL’s EES – it’s over 11,000 pages of technical information with just weeks to make a comment. 

But it’s not that hard and you can make a difference. Make your concerns known by writing a submission. 

Save Westernport and Environment Victoria want to help you to add your voice by holding online workshops next week on How to Write a Powerful Submission.

RSVP via one of these links to join a forum on:

Thursday 6 August, 6:00-7:30pm
EES workshop 1

Friday 7 August, 12:00-1:30pm
EES workshop 2

We’re also planning a public forum to be held soon so people can discuss what this project would mean for the region. We hope to be joined by our elected representatives to hear what they have to say about it.

Remember during the Federal election last year Save Westernport held a public meeting where each of the candidates for the seat of Flinders campaigned against the AGL project?

Read about it here in the June 2019 issue of the Balnarring Bridge. 

The details of that online forum are still being finalised, watch this space and sign up here to receive Save Westernport’s regular newsletter for all the details as soon as they’re available
https://savewesternport.org/newsletter/

Remember over 22,000 individual submissions were received against the Narrabri gas project !

The Minister needs to receive as many submissions as possible against AGL’s plans in Westernport, so he’s in no doubt about the extent of Community opposition to AGL’s dirty and exploitative gas proposal.

Reflections- Growing up in Somers ~ by Sue Byrne

Reflections- Growing up in Somers ~ by Sue Byrne

Three generations of our family have lived in Somers. Pa, Ron Stone, built the General Store in 1927. Mum and her brothers grew up there and we grew up across the road.

Growing up in Somers on Westernport Bay was wonderful. Dirt roads, a few cars and
a small population. Families became extended families, looking out for each other.

As kids we explored the bush and beach, the rockpools and sea life. I learnt to swim in the bay with aunty Bren holding my waist, telling me to kick and float as waves washed over us. Terrifying at first but I grew to love swimming and the sea.

We enjoyed family picnics on the beach especially during warm still evenings after closing the store. The dads enjoyed spotlight fishing. We were allowed to go occasionally. Garfish were the main fish caught, (so many bones!).

The summers were a buzz with visitors, and new friends to play with at the beach; water-skiing, sailing, swimming, snorkelling, paddle boarding etc. We rolled down sand dunes and built cubbies in the bush. We were blessed to see dolphins silently cruising and joyfully playing with humans and dogs.

We’ve watched the changes to the beach landscape; erosion, shifting sands, rock walls and groins.

As we drift off to sleep, the sound of waves lashing or lapping on the shore is very soothing.

The bay is abundant with sea creatures and birdlife. There was much to learn. We also learnt to respect the bay and her moods.

It would be so devastating to have AGL interrupt the serenity and pristine eco system of Westernport Bay with such huge infrastructure and commercial destruction.

I pray they stay away.

Morn Pen Council Information Session on AGL’s EES

Morn Pen Council Information Session on AGL’s EES

Concerned about AGL’s LNG proposal ?                 

 Have Your Say – Make a Submission

You can have your say on this project by making a written submission to State Government. Details on how to make a submission are here.

You can make a submission as part of a Residents Group or Community Organisation, however petitions don’t count as a submission.

Community Information Session

The Mornington Peninsula Shire Council held a community information session about the AGL project on Thursday 16 July.  Due to Coronavirus restrictions, the session was held as an online webinar. You can watch it here

Members of the public joined the webinar on the night, where Council officers provided an outline of:

  • the project proposal,
  • approvals process,
  • Council’s planned response,
  • key dates and events,
  • answers to frequently asked questions.

Members of the public had the opportunity to ask their own questions via the online chat function.

Please note: For those who could not attend the webinar, a recording of the session and copy of the PowerPoint have been uploaded to the Council’s website.

Save Westernport has made the Council’s presentation available here
https://youtu.be/LnLM1KIDmyk

 

  • Questions during the webinar were submitted by typing into the Q&A chat function on the screen.
  • The webinar did not have the capability to host verbal questions from guests.

    The EES is our chance to have our say on the AGL proposal.

    Save Westernport encourages you to make a submission and attend our information session with Environment Victoria to find out how.

    We’ll let you know the details soon.

Warren Cooke’s Heart Story for Westernport

Warren Cooke’s Heart Story for Westernport

I don’t ‘use’ Westernport, it actually gives to me. I find a sense of wholeness when I connect to the natural beauty of this place through art making, swimming, surfing, sailing and beach walks with family and friends. I also do my best to give back to it, by collecting rubbish, protesting as needed and by honouring this place in my art practice.

Westernport is a place of great beauty to admire and marvel at throughout the seasons; grand coastal banksias and mangroves, undulating waters, dolphins, shore birds and migratory birds as they feast along the waterline. It is a sanctuary. It is home to an internationally recognised RAMSAR wetland and for many creatures, both land-based and marine, it is their nursery and home.

AGL is being dishonest with Australians, claiming that we need a gas terminal for their imported gas. This is blatantly not true. With climate change upon us, any proposed energy plans must be both clean and renewable. Gas is neither of these.

During their proposed regassification process, AGL’s gas terminal will pump millions of litres of chlorinated sea water into Westernport – dead water, on a daily basis. The loss of microscopic life is like the tip of a spear which would harm all of the fauna and flora that live here. We cannot think that we are separate to that damage, it will affect humans too.

My heart is heavy at the prospect that AGL could go ahead with this proposal. The loss is not only for the close community who reside around Westernport but to all the living things. We must continue to stand as a community, loud and strong against projects such as these.

With climate change upon us, it is more important now than ever.

Warren Cooke
@artbycooke

STOP PRESS ~ The EES is out now!

STOP PRESS ~ The EES is out now!

In 2018 Victorian Minister for Planning Richard Wynne called for an Environment Effects Statement on AGL’s giant gas import proposal in response to community concerns about countless safety and environmental risks.

The EES has now been released and the documents are available online.

Q: Why does AGL continue to publish lovely photos of Westernport on their reports?
We know how beautiful the Bay is. What we need to know is WHAT the spectre of the proposed FSRU ship, 17 storeys tall, would really look like at our beach. The pictures provided by AGL are misleading; they have been cropped and the schematics shown in their EES reports are not to scale.

The Public Comments period for the EES on AGL’s proposal on the Mornington Peninsula commenced on July 2 and will run until August 26 2020.

That’s just 40 business days for submissions, under and a declared Stage 4 State of Disaster. But we must prevent fossil fuels companies like AGL and APA the pipeline corp, from taking advantage of the global pandemic. From the threat to marine life and Endangered Species, to Social and Climate Impacts, there are countless reasons why this project must not be approved.

We encourage you all to make a submission during this time. You can focus on just single area or areas of concern to tell the Minister why you object to AGL’s dangerous and unnecessary plans. 

Or sign up here for support and advice from Save Westernport and Environment Victoria on how to make your submission. 

Minister Wynne needs to hear from this community, and from all Victorians why AGL’s plans to import and process gas, and to construct a 60 km gas pipeline are entirely incompatible with the proposed location in Westernport Bay.

There is nothing that AGL could do to tweak this project to make it acceptable. The government and Victorians have been misled with tales of gas shortages and cheaper prices, with AGL only now admitting that the price of imported gas would be set by international markets.

Rather than helping us transition from fossil fuels as they claim, AGL’s project would keep us burning gas for the next 20 years or more.

This project is the last thing we need. AGL have shown they are not worthy of our trust, and they’ve admitted it will not result in cheaper gas. Why would we risk degrading our precious marine life, when there is NOTHING in it for Victorians? 
This is our chance to tell the Minister why AGL’s project MUST NOT BE APPROVED.

The EES reports are now available online
This includes  AGL’s Summary Report and a document called How to Navigate the EES

There’s an Executive Summary, three volumes of reports, and several attachments including Environmental Risk and Climate Change Risk Assessments and Maps. 
The EES also contains the following technical reports:

Technical Report A: Marine Biodiversity 
Technical Report C: Surface water
Technical Report D: Groundwater
Technical Report F: Greenhouse gas
Technical Report G: Air quality
Technical Report H: Noise and vibration
Technical Report I: Landscape and visual
Technical Report J: Transport
Technical Report K: Safety, hazard and risk
Technical Report L: Land use
Technical Report M: Social
Technical Report N: Business
Technical Report O: Agriculture
Technical Report P: Aboriginal cultural heritage
Technical Report Q: Historic heritage


Watch this space for more information about how to write your submission —and make sure your voice is heard.

This is our opportunity to tell Minister Wynne that we unequivocally object to the AGL corporation and their brazen and foolhardy attempt to take-over Woolleys Beach and exploit Westernport Bay to promote and prolong the burning of LNG, a fossil fuel just as dangerous as coal.

There are numerous reasons why we have no intention of allowing this irresponsible corporation’s plans to harm our precious environment and endanger the health and safety of local communities.

Make a submission or Donate now towards our fighting fund. Your donations will help pay for our own experts to refute the various technical reports and to take on AGL with their limitless resources at the public Hearings for the EES.

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