Mark Seymour shows his support for Westernport

Mark Seymour shows his support for Westernport

AGL’s claim that Australia is running out of gas is a lie.

Australia has plenty. It’s extraction has been poorly managed and sold cheaply overseas with little direct benefit to the Australian Tax payer.

Right now the Morrison government is planning a complete structural overhaul of local gas extraction in this country and love it or hate it, if it’s plans go ahead the AGL plant will be rendered superfluous because it depends on imported gas.

There is no valid industrial or economic argument to justify building this monstrous plant in Westernport.

Make no mistake, AGL is running out of time.

If you’re a voter and a tax payer and you live on the Mornington Peninsula..

Now is the time to get angry and loud.

The proposed AGL gas plant will be an environmental disgrace and a permanent stain on the reputation of any government that allows it to go ahead..

The AGL gas plant can be stopped

GO HARD NOW!

M Seymour

Heart Story from Bianca F

Heart Story from Bianca F

I decided to make the tree change/ sea change to the Mornington Peninsula just over 10 years ago. I was rebuilding my life after a nasty marriage and a welcome divorce. I quickly realised that the Westernport side of the peninsula was for me and, after several months of house hunting, found my Forever Home.

Slowly I explored the region that I had called home. I discovered Balnarring Beach…. I discovered the pelicans at Stony Point…. I discovered Hastings jetty and foreshore… I discovered Tooradin… I discovered how lovely the drive is around Westernport as you head to Phillip Island…

In the meantime, I remarried and had children.

And, would you believe, it has taken me 10 years, but I only discovered this year the “secret path” at Crib Point, that starts adjacent to the jetty?! It has quickly become our favourite family walk destination. (Luckily, it is within 5km of home so we can still enjoy the walk despite the current lockdown.)

The tranquillity of the region has been a great balm for me. I feel rather chuffed that I live alongside an internationally recognised (RAMSAR) region. The natural beauty of Westernport is obvious and the thought of it being desecrated by heavy industry is sacrilegious.

Go away AGL. (For that matter, go away Kawasaki too.)

Leave our community alone and in peace.

 

A Woolley Heart Story

A Woolley Heart Story

Melissa’s Story

I’m a Woolley. Well, I was until I married and opted to change my name. My family has strong roots in Crib Point, particularly in the vicinity of the jetty.

My great, great grandfather Ashton Woolley selected 400 acres at Crib Point in 1875 and built the Woolley Homestead at 50 Disney St, Crib Point.

Facing the Westernport Bay, his son and my great grandfather, William (Bill) built his weatherboard home on land he had purchased from his father in 1929. His house was situated just south of the Woolley family home on the point.

Pictured are Bill and Jane Woolley, my great grandparents.

British Petroleum (BP) built a refinery at Crib Point and pressured Bill Woolley to sell. Bill refused to sell his property to BP, and so the Western Point Refinery was built around his house. Bill remained in his home in the care of my great Aunty Marg, until he died around 1968.

I have so many childhood memories of visiting my great aunty Marj at her home and being chased by her sheep. Well known in the area, Marj Baxter (nee Woolley) lived in the family homestead until she could no longer manage the maintenance. She felt isolated and vulnerable as an old woman living alone in quite a remote area of Crib Point. Our beautiful family homestead on the Esplanade, overlooking Westernport Bay was sold to the BP Refinery and the homesteads that Bill and his father Ashton had built were demolished by BP. All that is remaining is a vacant block used by motorbike riders.

Bill Woolley built a jetty, of which only the stumps remain, and an extant cool room on the foreshore in 1903, where he stored his catch before it was transported to Melbourne for sale.

Bill Woolley’s Cool Room is surrounded by a security fence. A sign is attached to the fence that says ‘This cement cool room was built by Mr Bill Woolley in the year 1903 to store his fish on weekends. Blocks of ice were packed in there with the fish awaiting transport to Melbourne by train on Monday mornings.”

I now have a family of my own and together, we enjoy spending time at Woolley’s Beach. Taking in the tranquillity and appreciating the natural environment of indigenous vegetation.
There has already been so much irreversible damage to this area due to industrialisation. My family and I are passionate about preserving our natural environment and protecting it from being destroyed as an outcome of short-sighted greed.

Habitat & Home, Where The heart Is by Chloe Farmer

Habitat & Home, Where The heart Is by Chloe Farmer

Western Port Bay is a place sacred to me. It holds a special place in my heart. I have lived in Somers, Flinders and Shoreham, and in recent years returned from bayside Melbourne to Balnarring.

Like a holdfast tethering strands of seaweed in underwater forests, this place anchors the many threads woven throughout my life. Experiences, memories, connections…personal, family, community…social, environmental, artistic, spiritual.

And I know this is not unique to me. People from communities around Western Port Bay, and beyond, hold similar sentiments. People are connected to place, not separate from it. Our stories, our lives, are inextricably woven with the lands and waters.

For many thousands of years the Boon Wurrung peoples of the Kulin Nation, have sung up these lands and waters with their stories, living in sacred balance, with great reverence and care for Country.

Western Port Bay is a place of unique charm, natural beauty and clean, clear living waters. A place of international ecological significance. A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with Ramsar wetlands, and three marine national parks located within its boundaries. A haven for wildlife, shores where migratory birds return. The Bay’s varied habitats host an abundance of diverse species, some endemic, like the magical Weedy Seadragon.

For me, walking the shoreline is a never-ending source of artistic inspiration, a soul nourishing practice of contemplation and communion. I marvel at the cycles alive in the changing tides, colours of the skies and waters. It continues to fill me with wonder and teach me about the miraculous web of life.

I feel great sadness that unpolluted wild places are rapidly shrinking all over the world. Oceans are polluted and overfished. Land and waterways poisoned. Humans continue to plunder and destroy so much of our environment in the name of ‘progress’, the consumption of resources, and the pursuit of money – to feed an insatiable ‘machine’.

Places like Western Port Bay are precious. They are irreplaceable. Priceless. To threaten to harm them is irresponsible, unconscionable and sacrilegious. Companies such as AGL show their greed, short-sightedness and blatant disregard by continuing to invest in infrastructure for fossil fuels in the midst of a Climate Emergency.

This place is home to many more species than humans. We are part of a complex ecosystem that has functions and needs beyond ours. It is our duty to care for, not our entitlement to plunder. We must protect places like Western Port Bay, before it’s too late.

For future generations. For the dolphins, whales, seals, fish, sharks, penguins, birds, koalas, seagrass beds, mangroves and indigenous flora, for the myriad forms in the web of life that call this place Home.

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.’
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Brian’s Story

Brian’s Story

My affinity with Westernport Bay began in earnest about 1969 when I started a Diploma of Teaching at Frankston Teacher’s College, now the Frankston campus of Monash University. Before this I used to stay for the odd weekend at the “Shacks”, which were well put together humpies at the back of the sand dunes at Point Leo. Life Savers and surfers used these shacks to be close to the beach and do what they really enjoyed, surf. I met blokes like Sandy Mc Kendrick, Gus and Robbie Tankard who remain long-time friends.

While I was at Teacher’s College I met Paul Trigger, Graham Quail, Murray “Wogs” Walding and Tidal wave Ted Bainbridge. We formed a tight little surfing group that would take every opportunity to skip lectures and go surfing when the swell was up. We surfed all the known beaches of Westernport but we also surfed new places like Balnarring Point, Merricks and the Farm at Flinders. It was probably the boards we had in those days that made these places seem like jewels of the bay. A bloke called Alan “Wally” Tibbals lived for a short time in Somers and we started surfing another place when the swell was big, Somers River mouth. Another friend I made was Keith “Atlas” Robinson, who, being a goofy foot, was always looking for a wave that broke left. He found it at the Pines in Shoreham and surfed it regularly. Of course we called this break Atlas.

The lure of the beach was too much for me and I moved to Carisbrooke Street in Balnarring and rented a house with some mates. Unknown to me at the time there was a family who used to camp on their block behind the house us blokes lived in. The daughter in that family was Mandy Palmer and she is now my life partner.
Westernport Bay has always been a jewel, with a country feel and a slower pace. It hasn’t changed all that much. Mind you, sitting in the “cave” at Merricks Point watching the bay and eating a chicken pie from Mrs Pickler’s or going into the old Balnarring General Store for food may have disappeared, but if you search hard, that same feeling of country can be satisfied.

After I graduated from Teacher’s College I moved to the Otways and taught at Lavers Hill. I got married and thought I would settled down on the rugged South West Coast of Victoria. When my son Simon was born though we thought it best to move back to family and conveniences. So Westernport Bay here I come again! We lived in Bittern when it was very rural and it was here that I got very involved with the late Councillor Lorna Bennett and the late Brian Cummins. We were quite political and had paddle outs at the Crib Point refinery attempting to stop them from polluting our bay. Brian was an inspirational man and I’m sure his spirit is with us in this new campaign against AGL and its gas plan.

I furthered my studies and got a Diploma in Outdoor Education which had an academic focus on the environment. Doctor Leon Costermon was one of my lecturers and it wasn’t long before I was studying Westernport Bay and its vegetation both around the bay and in the water. The white mangrove was fascinating to me and my major evaluative work was spent on this species and its crucial relationship to our bay.

I have always been involved with the community around Westernport Bay and was either a teacher or principal in Hastings for over 30 years. This lead to many experiences and chances to promote the area and our school was always involved with many environmental and community programs.

2.
Serendipity has played its role and I now find myself living back in Balnarring with my partner Mandy. We have built a new home and we love it here. Because we are both now retired we have the opportunity to walk the beaches, swim, surf and thoroughly enjoy the whole bay environment. It has become quite a spiritual or meaningful place for us. I will never forget Mandy bathing in the soothing waters every day after her radiation treatment for an unexpected cancer which was a little hiccup for us. Mandy’s parents were long time Balnarring residents and they chose to have their ashes sprinkled into the bay. It’s not uncommon for us to visit this quiet spot and watch 2 dolphins at play. I’m sure everyone sees the dolphins but we like to think we have a special connection. We find the bay comforting and emotional, in a good way! To us, the bay has an essence of the cycle of life.

I still surf as much as I can even though my body has let me down a bit. I have crook hips and knees so my son Simon has shaped me a board I lie on. He calls it the GS….the Gut Slider! It keeps me in the water and my special moments are still connected with the waves of the Peninsula, but in particular, Westernport Bay. My friends are still here and they have selected this area to live because of the bay. It’s still clean and alive and has a huge impact on all of our lives. I believe I have lived in some great times and have experienced some wonderful moments in the water both with my son Simon and my friends. I now want my grandchildren to have the same opportunity to experience some of the joys the bay has given me. Mandy and I want our ashes spread in the bay to become part of this magical place and I sure as Hell don’t want to share the water with the pollutants from a floating AGL gas factory.

Brian Forward

[photo: Rory McGinley]

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