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.

All Our Somers…………by Marnee Fraser

All Our Somers…………by Marnee Fraser

Somers Beach is a very special jewel in the crown of Westernport Bay. Over the past 40 years, I have watched its dynamic shoreline change with every passing year. Its crystal-clear waters stretch from Coolart, Somers School Camp and Merricks Creek, all the way east from the yacht club, through to Williams Point and around past the 100 Steps to Sandy Point where French Island opens up across the bay.

I have walked on this beach every morning for many years and everyday, no matter the season, it takes my breath away when I emerge from the foreshore near the creek mouth and take in the view down to Flinders and across to Phillip Island.

Each season brings its own surprises in the sea, the clouds, the shoreline, the birdlife and our very own pod of dolphins. Over the years I have witnessed attempts to subdue the tide and its erosive effects. Rock walls, groins and sea walls have come and gone over time – some successful, most not –nature just continues to do her thing.

Our children have walked Somers beach, explored its foreshore, surfed its creek mouth, snorkelled over its reefs and sea-grasses and played with their friends on its sand. They continue to do so as adults and want their children to experience the same joys as they have.

AGL is simply not to be trusted to love our bay like we do. Their record of environmental damage is testament to this with $6,500,000 being paid out in fines over the past 5 years.

 

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

The Le Fevre Family’s Heart Story

The Le Fevre Family’s Heart Story

We are looking back through 15 years worth of family photos camping at Balnarring and trying to find the essence of what is so special about this place for us.

Our kids aged, about 9 and 12, seeing dolphins for the first time, swimming close by as they sailed out on the catamaran. Seeing a humpback whale another time.
The queue of about 10 other kids waiting their turn to go out on said catamaran.

Getting lost on a bush track coming back from the beautiful Coolart Wetlands, talking to my dear friend the whole way and not worried that it is was getting dark.
Trying to draw the dear Fairy Wrens, who are too fast, flitting in and out of the sheoaks.

Swimming at midnight under a full moon, feeling safe in this protected Bay.
While the adults were playing games beside the camp lights, the kids were running around the bush, getting muddy in the creek. Something they will never forget. We had talent shows. We sang together. We sat on the beach feeling like no time would ever pass and this stunningly divine place would stay the same forever and we would look forward to bringing our grandchildren here.

We want the shoreline and the vista to stay pristine and gorgeous as it is now, to be able to see across to Phillip and French Islands. We don’t want to have to apologise to our grandchildren for not doing enough and letting industry spoil something so precious to us, and the flora and fauna of the area. It simply must not happen.

From the Le Fevre Family, submitted by Jo Roszkowski

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.