Will’s Story

Will’s Story

Growing up I remember salt prickling my skin,
Azure blue water and an oven like northerly,
Pea soup green easter swells,
Surfing in howling south westerly blizzards at Merricks point,
Walking through the tangled tee tree trunks in the half dark,
Slipping on muddy paths with numb feet,
Koalas unearthly carrying on in the tree in the back yard,
Dolphins surfacing under our surfboards at Pt Leo.
The stench of rotting seaweed when the Balnarring or Somers creek mouths block up,
Threading my car through the network of lonely roads,
Acute angles and straight lines through a tunnel of trees, heading towards the prom.
Tooradin, mudflats, mangroves spikes, tinnies floating way below or banging against moorings at high tide.
Garfishing, an artificial light run off a battery in a tiny boat, forming an otherworldly luminous cone in emerald green water
Snorkelling very rarely and still seeing an eagle ray and stingrays at Merricks.
Seagrass seaweed, piled on the beach to knee height.
The smell of it, the weird lumpy mattress feeling of walking in it, throwing it at my family, my brother stuffing it down my top.
The way it sticks to you and you find it stuck to you after hours and a shower.
Snippets of a life lived with an inescapable connection to the surrounding land, and developing an understanding of the importance of each element.
Taken together these memories are a way of growing up, the connection between the weather and state of the sea, and the smell of the town you live in, familiar and precious to many Australians
What do they think millions of litres of chlorinated fresh water will do to the seagrass? What effect do they expect the death of the seagrass to have on the garfish, and stingrays, and dolphins, and flathead?

Will local grandkids still have dusty photos of seaweed moustaches and wigs in 10 years?

 

A Heart Story from: Mirielle Schreuders

A Heart Story from: Mirielle Schreuders

Close your eyes. Come on a journey with me.

It’s early morning, you think about your day ahead. You recognise and embrace and are truly grateful for the many birdsongs that greet you each and every morning.

There are no other sounds, perhaps a car on its way to work, but you realise how incredibly fortunate you are to live in a rural setting, with the blessings of nature that greet you amongst the peace and quiet of the towns around Bittern and Crib Point.

You take a big breath and gently get out of bed. Still the birds keep their songs. You realise what a magnificent part of the world you live in. Beaches, bush, birds, bliss. What a perfect area for your family to learn about wilderness. You think you have made the best decision to raise your children here.

To care for nature. To have space. Clean air. Clean water. Tranquillity.

And then.

A large conglomerate called AGL decide that your home, your community, your land, your sea, your sand should be home to a monstrous floating gas tank. Disregarding the towns natural way of living, our conservation practices, and our pleas to choose another, more appropriate setting, AGL push their proposal and the community decide that our livelihoods, our quietude and our territory is worth the fight, so we raise our voices.

Come back to the journey.
Close your eyes
It’s evening. The birdsong returns. So many birds, different pitches, different lullabies. You breathe out a long sigh. For now, we have our way of life. If there was ever a home to protect, flora and fauna to safeguard, it’s certainly here.

These are two cheeky, but very friendly locals in our backyard (we live in Bittern, just 3.5km from the proposed site of development)

What will become of them, if AGLs plans are permitted?

I can’t bear to think of the damage and destruction and noise pollution of our bushland and waterways.
Honourable Minister Richard Wynne, the heritage, the wilderness and the soul of these area’s cannot be replaced nor can a price be put on their significance.

Please think of our precious land, our families, our wildlife. Our way of life, that we have chosen.

“ Such beauty, not of human hand… Is there for us to see… All nature is so wonderful…

The cost is nil, all free “

Solastalgia by Jan Parker

Solastalgia by Jan Parker

Westernport Bay is a beautiful, wise, unsung quiet achiever; gentle beach coves, surf beaches, nature walking trails, unparalleled bird watching, unique coastal scrub and freshwater lakes.
Westernport Bay has a natural integrity that is precious and irreplaceable. That is evident in its listing as an internationally recognised, significant Ramsar Wetland site since 1982. It is well known as one of the three most important areas for migratory shorebirds in south-east Australia.
The Bay was also declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2002 (one of only nine in Australia).

I have been a visitor to many parts of the bay consistently over the past 20 years. To walk, observe, regenerate and to take photographs for my art practice. When I alight on any part of Westernport’s shores, she is instantly recognisable as being a very important and unique natural environment with a great deal to offer. The bay’s wetland areas are so fascinating to me. I particularly love mangroves and am so in awe of their quiet strength in stabilising coastal systems, nutrient cycling and the wildlife habitat they provide.

I gain much inspiration from their resilience and subtle complexities.

Westernport Bay is an understated beauty, a jewel in Victoria’s crown, a surviving example of other precious environments that are now just a memory…. a memory of ones that heavy industry has smashed down before for short term financial gains.

My love is for the mud, marshy swampland that is hard to traverse, tangled roots of mangrove, seagrass meadows and saltmarshes. It doesn’t seem like much is going on there………but underneath the water, inside the mud and marsh, skittering along the shoreline around the mangrove roots and in the scrubby trees is a complex, fragile, incredibly rich diversity of fauna, flora and marine life, the likes of which are not seen anywhere else in the world.

It is a bay with extraordinary, ecological values. The wetland flora diversity creates the food chains that sustain marine life and provide food for the 36 species of migratory shorebirds that land there for a sustained time every single year coming from within the Arctic Circle. It provides for thousands of local avian lives every day.

It is very quiet there, lapping water a constant companion, major tidal swings always bringing a different view and places to explore. It is a place for meandering, observing, sitting, contemplating, regenerating and somewhere just to be with an unsung hero…nature.

As I said, Westernport Bay is a quiet achiever.

AGL I believe you are being dishonest with Australians. Claiming that Victoria needs a gas terminal in Westernport Bay for its domestic needs and not owning up to the facts that the huge sell off in 2015 to GLNG and then selling your entire free gas portfolio to the LNG plants as the real reason for the shortfall.

That the plant will drive gas prices down is blatantly untrue. The LNG will be imported at raised international prices. AGL, you are a gas company, how could you not have been acutely aware of the decline in Bass Strait and stepped up sooner in moving to renewables?

AGL you do not have social approval to go ahead with this project. There is overwhelming community protest.

AGL your risk assessments merely contain regurgitated publicly known facts but contain no real, scientific investigations into the specific impacts of the plant on Westernport Bays environment.

AGL if you go ahead with your proposed re-gasification plant and the subsequent, inevitable and irreversible major degradation of the fragile ecosystems of Westernport Bay you will be responsible for creating a cultural malaise amongst the millions of local and visiting people who love unique Westernport Bay for what she is, a rare opportunity to experience a sense of wilderness less than 2 hours from Melbourne.

My message to our politicians is, ‘How could you even consider agreeing to the senseless pollution and despoiling of such a precious environment and be prepared to lose Victoria’s premier tourism destination worth billions of dollars?’

Personally, I will feel an incredible environmental grief if this Bay is pulled asunder by AGL’s dirty gas plan.

Will there never be an end to our desecration of nature?

Sacha’s Story

Sacha’s Story

Westernport has a particularly special spot in my heart. It’s been my playground since I was a teenager. It’s my saltwater therapy. A safe, reef-lined bay full of surf breaks, tree lined shores and peaceful beaches. Westernport has given me space, healing, time to be myself, play, be free, feel wild and human. I owe this wilderness for keeping me true to myself and on my best path in life. Priceless. Such is the roll of wilderness that is disappearing around the world. Ancient cultures often used time alone away from villages and in nature as a right of passage. The value of this has been lost to most in our modern culture, but in our heart of hearts, not forgotten.

As we become more familiar with wild spaces, we begin to relate to them as more than ecosystems. To me Westernport is a living, breathing entity. Her mangroves and seagrass beds are lungs drawing down 4 times the amount of carbon than terrestrial forests. They’re also kidneys filtering toxins from storm water, keeping our oceans clean and fish stocks healthy. Her breath is the tides, each one regenerating and reinvigorating the system and exchanging nutrients with the ocean. Her blood and flesh are the mudflats, offering up nutrients to the birds that migrate from around the world to feed on. Her bones are the reefs creating waves we can surf and have fun on. Her shallow waters are her arms, a nursery for fish, sharks and rays, seahorses, crays and crabs. Her deep channels are home to the Burrunan dolphins, and an appreciated quiet pitstop for larger whales along their migration paths.

The value of Westernport surpasses economic value that could be put on her. She effortlessly maintains the systems we need to protect us from climate change, unfunded and unaided. She provides us with healthy aquaculture, delivers us fun and happiness in the forms of waves, fishing, diving, and simple ocean gazing. She homes, feeds and protects all the species that form an integral part of the health of her overall system and the ones linked to her. And she cleans our air by replenishing life giving oxygen and mood boosting ozone. Did you know two-thirds of the planet’s total atmospheric oxygen is produced by ocean phytoplankton?

So take in 3 breaths and thank the oceans for 2 of them.

 

Save Westernport’s EES Submission

Save Westernport’s EES Submission

:

Save Westernport’s  Submission against AGL’s Environment Effects Statement has been lodged with Planning Panels Victoria, who will now oversee the Public Hearings for the EES.

Our submission can now be viewed here

Many Thanks to everyone who collaborated to produce this wonderful work, and to Chris and Jane from Save Westernport for bringing together the many contributions.

Thanks also to Victor and all Save Westernport’s campaign partners at Environment Victoria- EV, Westernport Peninsula Protection Council- WPPC, Phillip Island Conservation Council- PICS, and Victorian National Parks Association- VNPA, and to all our wonderful friends.

I am so encouraged by what we were able to achieve in just 40 days, under extremely difficult lockdown conditions. 

The next stage of the EES will be the Panel Hearings beginning on October 12.

You can DONATE to support us at the EES Hearings against AGL 

Those of you who indicated in their submissions that they’d like to address the Panel directly will have the opportunity to do this via video link at the Hearings. 
Planning for the Panel Hearings will begin on October 12.

Remember, these Hearings will require us to go up against Energy giant AGL—to take on the limitless resources of a corporation with past convictions for “deceptive and misleading conduct” 

But we still have to reach our fundraising target.
Funds are urgently needed to secure the best legal support and expert witnesses to ensure 
the interests of our community are represented at the Hearings.
This will be essential to challenge AGL’s exploitative plans.

To contribute to this monumental effort, please consider…‘What Does Westernport Mean to Me..?.’

and PLEASE Donate Here.

By pooling our resources, however large or small, we can make sure those without a voice  are heard.

Donate Now to the No AGL Campaign

And let’s do this!!

Julia Stöckigt,

Secretary Save Westernport 

 

 

Libby Moore’s Story

Libby Moore’s Story

My family purchased our house at Somers when I was born. I have spent long lazy summers and cold invigorating winters at Western Port Bay. Each day I see the beach like a newborn with wonder and awe. The colours, tides, winds, clouds, rainbows, sounds and marine life bring with them a new daily combination and surprise. Secure in its beauty and unpolluted beaches, the subtle and dynamic changes of Westernport Bay are addictive. They are an integral part of my life memories from a childhood spent rowing my boat up the creek, swimming, fishing and sailing to a parent-hood sharing my special place with my children. They grew up swimming and boating with inquisitive dolphins, snorkelling the rock shelf and surfing.

It wasn’t always like this. There were dark times when in 1965 BP built a refinery for Crude Oil at Crib Point. Lights shone all night and a flame burned. Lumps of oil washed up on the beach at Somers along with dead Penguins and seals who were covered in black oil. After a trip to the beach we would have to wash outside with special detergent and throw away ruined towels and beach wear. Surf boards would be covered in thick oil. The rubbish from the tankers also washed up on the beach. Plastic containers and food waste thrown overboard. Fortunately, the refinery was closed down as it was not financially viable.

AGL maintain this would not happen again with their project. Do they really care? Have they done extensive risk management for the marine life in Western Port Bay? Will the mangroves which are fish breeding grounds and water filters, survive the proposed chlorine and water temperature changes. It is easy to pay a fine and leave the penguin, seal and dolphin carcasses washed up on the beach. AGL have extensive fines already for failing to meet emission targets, which indicate that the environment is not a priority.

Please save the pristine beauty of our bay and its marine life.

Please develop renewables for the future or our world.

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.

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 voice heard, and make your concerns about AGL’s proposal known by writing a submission. 

It doesn’t take long, and it does not need to be technical!

Save Westernport and Environment Victoria recently held online workshops on How to Write a Powerful Submission. 
Read Environment Victoria’s tips and information on how to make a submission on the EES  here.

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 that event here in the June 2019 issue of the Balnarring Bridge. 

Our local members say they’re still opposed to AGL’s bizarre project, and have told us they’ll be making submissions on AGL’s EES 

 https://gasimportprojectvictoria.com.au/environment-effects-statement#view-the-ees

 

You can make a submission about the AGL Crib Point proposal using the online form on the EngageVic website here: https://engage.vic.gov.au/crib-point-IAC

 

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.

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]