Heart Story by Elke Emerald

Heart Story by Elke Emerald

I didn’t mean to live on the Mornington Peninsula, but life has habit of having its own way sometimes.
So, after joyful years living in NZ – life bought me to Bittern.

I had no idea that this delightful place was tucked away here south of Melbourne.

There are bike paths, and walking paths and beautiful beaches. Wineries, breweries, gardens.
Without a lie, I’ll tell you this – we moved to Bittern in Oct 2018 and we had houseguests every night from Dec 22 2018 to April 25 2019: waving one dear friend off and welcoming another, with just enough time to change the sheets!

This speaks to the enthusiasm to visit this part of the world.

Our ‘guest trail’ is beautiful – bike rides from Jacks Beach to Hastings, lunches at breweries and wineries, swims at Gunnamatta Beach, snorkeling at Flinders Pier, learning about the Ramsar listing, Coolart wetlands, visits to ‘the other side’ (Port Philip Bay side), walking at Arthurs Seat and treks to the very end of Nepean Point.

What a beautiful place – all within a couple of hours on the train to Melbourne-town for a day of museums, galleries, shopping and restaurants.

And now: the grief of the possibility of losing all this to foolish profit, greed and mistaken arguments about ‘essential power’. I learnt of this proposal in an almost offhand comment from the Estate Agent, after we’d signed the contract. I guess it was a case of buyer beware. But I am not sorry I am here. I delight in this beautiful community still.

But here we are, fighting to stop all this being given away, the bay destroyed – all for the profit of faraway business leaders and faceless shareholders.

What a travesty.

Westernport Bay – BR Sallmann

Westernport Bay – BR Sallmann

My relationship with Westernport bay is that it has functioned as a compass since moving to the peninsula with my family when I was eight years old. It started at its southern entrance – Flinders ocean beach – where one day I found myself crunched up in the shallows in winter, starting to question my conviction that moving to the beach from the city meant I absolutely needed to swim in the ocean every single day.

My addiction to the coast has since softened as I have moved further north along the bay, however I am becoming increasingly aware that if I found myself living inland in the future, tucked away from the coast, something would be missing. I am too well-adjusted to that salty taste, and the crisp southern air, and the grits of sand that constantly pepper my carpet and stick to my toes. Yet amidst the ongoing refusal by myself and likeminded others to allow AGL’s commoditisation of the bay, I find myself wondering if I could even stand to see the waterline at all, polluted with the money-man’s toys.

Running along the bay at sunrise has been a consistent habit of mine for years and knowing how easily I’d give that up if the proposal went ahead shows me how deeply disturbing AGL’s idealised reality would be. Even for those with a merely superficial connection to the bay – those who overlook it from wealthy clifftops and see the bay primarily as an asset – stand to lose their money to the pockets of the powerful.

Every ship would represent a failure – for us, for the wildlife, for the future of energy production and power division – to win a fight that should never have taken place at all. I refuse to lose to an opponent who fights in blatantly corrupt and manipulative ways. I refuse to lose upon a land rich in the potential for sustainable energy production to an archaic and toxic exploitation of finite resources. I refuse to accept the decisions of those who favour the whip of fast cash over what is ethical, and healthy, and compassionate, and sustainable. And those inside and outside of the community who choose inaction, whose failure to become angry and question what they are told represents the easiest form of compliance.

I am only twenty-five, I do not own land here nor pay rates. I do not feel any sense of ownership over the bay or feel pulled to the cause by any sense of personal affront that I could lose my beach, as it is not mine, nor yours, nor (and especially), business dealers and money makers. I do, however, feel a responsibility to speak up for it. Like all other natural environments, Westernport bay is a collective space that deserves respect. It gives life and takes nothing from us in return. It serves as a lesson to us that greed does not perpetuate infinite resources, but that the bay too, can suffer and become weak if we take too much.

We need to learn to tread lightly and protect our generous environment from those who do not.

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.

 

Brian Thomas’ story

Brian Thomas’ story

My first memory of Western Port was driving down Stony Point Road to the jetty and there on the mudflats was a small group of Yellow–billed Spoonbills. This was sometime around 1978 or 79 and as a newcomer to Australia the sight of spoonbills just milling around near the shore was terribly exotic and etched itself into my memory. I had no idea at the time of course that I would return to live and work within cooee of this endlessly fascinating bay.

I was on my way to French Island with a friend and this was also my first introduction –albeit brief – to that amazing island. Years later, I was to take part in catching koalas on French Island for relocation to the mainland and this took me to parts of the island seldom seen except by residents and rangers. The beautiful heathland in flower in spring time and wildflowers and orchids springing up on the fire breaks were memorable moments.

Visiting with the Peninsula Birdwatchers in the 1980s we were led by the indefatigable Des Quinn, striding over the countryside, on his long legs, dragging a weary group of birdwatchers in his wake. He showed us some wonderful birdlife – Cape Barren Geese in the paddocks, Swamp Harriers drifting low over the mashes and Sea Eagles soaring high overhead. It was all a wonderful introduction to the very special wildness of Western Port.

My interest in birds has drawn me into several surveys – some one-offs and others with a bit more longevity. One of my first was a banding trip with the Victorian Wader study Group. This group has done incredibly valuable work in the study of migratory and resident shore birds by fitting identification bands on the legs of birds to track their movements and in recent years with advanced technology, by fitting geo-locators to birds to do the same. Some of the results have been mind boggling with birds flying up to 10,000 km non-stop on their migratory journey! On this occasion, though the gods were against us and we were unable to catch any birds, however what sticks in my mind was the bay itself as we walked back along the shoreline. The sea was perfectly still – like the proverbial millpond – and in the setting sun, the reflections of the mangroves and the lines of colour on the water and in the sky was a sight that Turner could have painted.

Another banding expedition I took part in was catching Pied Oystercatchers. The Oystercatchers are one of the few shorebirds whose population is doing OK. French Island is important for these ground-nesting birds because of its remote beaches (with few people) and the absence of foxes. What I remember best about this outing was laying behind the scrub covered fore-dune and watching the sandpipers, stints and godwits slowly making their way towards us as the tide rose and covered their feeding grounds and drove them quietly towards us.

I also took part in a bird survey which was related to a port development proposal of some sort (I forget exactly which one, but there always seems to be someone who wants to “develop” Western Port and we always seem to have to repeatedly supply information as to why they shouldn’t). Anyway, this was Western Port in a different mood. Part of the survey was done from a boat (the part that I was participating in) and the weather was wet and windy but we managed to complete the survey (one of several) despite the conditions.

I also had the opportunity through my work learn a bit about a habitat that although I was familiar with on a superficial level I soon discovered that I knew little about the actual plants and animal that lived there. For a couple of years I coordinated an intertidal survey called Reef Watch at Mushroom Reef, Flinders. This involved surveying and recording the sea life within quadrants (metre squares) placed on the reef. To do this the surveys had to be timed for low tide and it was always a worry that I’d get the times wrong and the team would turn up to a submerged reef. Fortunately this never happened but there was one occasion when we had to beat a hasty retreat as the tide started to fill up the neck of the reef (our way back to shore) and we had to splash through the rising tide.

What I did get from this work though – thanks to the very knowledgeable volunteers who had been doing this for years – was an appreciation of just how varied the life is in this inhospitable zone and of course one couldn’t help notice the birds that use this zone too; the Sooty Oystercatchers and Turnstones on the rocks (one of these Turnstones wearing the aforementioned geolocator was tracked flying 4000 km non-stop on its migration), Red-necked Stints following the tide in and out on the sandy beach and Double-banded Dotterel amongst the sea weed, this New Zealand shore bird breeds in NZ and is the only east-west migrating shorebird in the world.

At present apart from enjoying the bay on a casual basis I take part in two bird surveys: the Orange –bellied Parrot Survey – a search for what is probably our rarest parrot (to date we haven’t seen one but we live in hope and there are always other interesting birds about) and the Western Port Bird Survey – possibly the longest running bird survey in Australia. The Western Port Survey is always interesting, especially if you have the luck to survey some of the more remote corners of the bay. The birdlife is astounding; Red-necked Avocets with their impossibly thin, delicate, upturned bills, yapping Black winged Stilts on their ridiculously long pink legs, flocking migratory birds in their hundreds, flotillas of hundreds of ducks, Caspian Terns with their long red bills, Gull-billed Terns with their neat black caps and so much more.

It’s an avian wonderland worthy of a David Attenborough documentary here on our door step, or if not exactly our door step at least a short walk down the garden path.

 

Ella’s Story

Ella’s Story

Not one day has passed without a soft smile of gratitude for this special place on my lips. It is heaven here. When we first moved here over a year ago I explored the walking tracks around the beach and bay and felt I’d come home, my heart fulfilled and excited for my children to grow up in this space.It’s like time has stood still here.

From the couch where I have been counselling since covid hit I can look out across the bay. The water reassures me. The big sky and towering pine trees remind me of what’s important. The spirit of the bay energises and grounds me. Locals express such appreciation and love for the place regularly to me.

I became aware of AGLs intentions because of the legendary work of ‘The Signwriter.’ (It was only recently after reading his heartstory that I realised I actually know who he is because we are dear friends with one of his family members and I recognised sections of his story!) I have much respect for him and all community members fighting for their beloved country and sea.

I look at my children Charlie and Aiya playing in the water and they’re just so damn happy here. We teach them to look after Mother Earth, that we are not the masters but part of the ecosystem itself. How do we fight the greed?

I dream of mass action in order to make the Govt listen. I fear that profit so often wins out and leaves a trail of destruction. Yet we must keep hope. We must keep fighting. Earth warriors have won before and we will win again. Let it be this battle.

Let us do all we can to protect this rare sanctuary and all its inhabitants. Let us use our anger as our momentum. We can’t let Richard Wynne. (Surprised and disheartened to learn he was once a Social worker as I am- Social justice being a core value of our practice)

Our house is kept warm by gas but I’d sacrifice it. We don’t actually need gas to survive and thrive. Let us live more wisely and more simply so our children get to see the beauty of this place at our age, so they too can look for dolphins playing in the water with their own kids as we do.

 

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 

 

 

Some EES report findings ~

Some EES report findings ~

Please note that in the above mock-up from AGL’s EES report, I found out that the United tanker shown on the left is 180.01 meters long, whereas AGL have told us that the FSRU is 290 metres long.  Is this an accurate depiction of what this picture would look like if the FSRU was moored there? Answers on a post card please…I’d laugh it wasn’t such a lie!! Candy

Admission of guilt by AGL in their EES

from Rod Knowles
(highlighting is his)

5.3 Questioning of AGL’s safety record

AGL EES Community Consultation Attachment V

 7.5.3 Questioning of AGL’s Safety Record

Concern about the proposed Project

safety processes, given previous AGL

incidents.

“Thanks for the effort… but I am not

reassured, given AGL’s safety history.”

(Hastings community session,

August 2019)

AGL understands the community concern about past behaviour. We need to do better. All the breaches and fines referenced are publicly available and as a major ASX listed company AGL’s conduct is rightly subject to high levels of regulator, shareholder, customer and media scrutiny.

 

The breaches and the resulting fines are evidence that AGL is closely monitored, and action is taken by both regulators and AGL to address past failures. AGL is made accountable for our actions and often take further action to ensure these types of issues don’t happen again.

In relation to the Project, AGL is not expecting the community to trust us and we recognise the community can’t simply take our word that safety and environmental risks will be well managed.

 

The purpose of the EES process is to independently assess if these risks can be addressed before the project is approved by the state government and many other regulators.

In addition to the EES, AGL will be subject to oversight by numerous regulators and government agencies, including:

  • Environment Protection Authority Victoria
  • Transport Safety Victoria
  • Marine Safety Victoria
  • Australian Maritime Safety Authority
  • Office of Transport Safety (Commonwealth)
  • Energy Safety Victoria
  • WorkSafe Victoria
  • Harbour Master
  • Victorian Regional Channels Authority
  • Port of Hastings Development Authority

The project also must adhere to several legislative requirements, including:

  • Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999(EPBC) 
  • Environment Effects Act 1978
  • Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988
  • Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 (CaLP Act)
  • Victorian Advisory Lists
  • Planning and Environment Act 1987
  • Mornington Peninsula Planning Scheme
  • Guidelines for the removal, destruction or lopping of native vegetation (DELWP 2017a)

The local community also play an important role to ensure AGL is accountable to the highest safety standards.

~ Rod Knowles

——————————————————————–

AGL’s schematic drawings of the proposed LNG Receiving Facility at Woolleys Beach Crib Point

 In their EES reports, AGL suggests relocating our picnic area at Woolleys Beach to accomodate their gas factory, but acknowledge that no suitable alternative location exists fail to present any alternative location.

This news, and these pictures appeared for the first time in their EES document, and were not disclosed in over two years of ‘community consultation sessions’.
Plans outlining the extent of the proposed changes at Woolley’s Beach reveal the great loss to locals and visitors if AGL is permitted to permanently close public access to Woolleys beach and the foreshore reserve.

The ‘mock-ups’ used by AGL in their EES are not accurate or to scale. AGL’s reports refer to a place called ‘Woolleys Beach North’, that is not known by that name locally. No information is given about the whereabouts of such a place.

Map references and boundaries shown in the Visual Amenity Report vary from those in the Pipeline Application and other reports. No attempt appears to have been made to reconcile that information between the various documents, which makes assessing the changes difficult, if not impossible.

If AGL proceeds with this ill advised project, Woolleys Beach picnic zone, that is perhaps the only shaded, beachfront BBQ area with shell chair access between Flinders and Tooradin would be permanently lost to the public.

It seems inconceivable that a private corporation could co-opt a public amenity, making it unusable due to the continual noise and industrial lighting light from the engines of their their gas import jetty

If you were a dolphin would you be ok with that? As a local, are you ok with your beach amenity turning into AGL’s gas import jetty?

Please make a submission before 1st Sept 11:59pm. Even just your heart-felt opposition to this monstrous proposal will make a difference.
If you want help go to: https://environmentvictoria.org.au/how-to-write-a-submission-opposing-agls-gas-import-terminal/

and checkout the tips here

AGL’s photos and of the proposed FSRU are particularly misleading. If you know a draughtsperson who could prepare an accurately scaled diagram for us, based on the actual measurements of the FSRU and the Crib Point Jetty, we’d be extremely grateful.
We need it to be based on the actual measurements so that it could be used as part of our submission to the Minister.

There’s no question that an accurate depiction would demonstrate-
1. How oppressive the proposed plant and vessel would be in that quiet coastal location.

2. How deceptive AGL’s own representations have been throughout all their “consultation sessions”, and continue to be even now, in the EES.

AGL has continually underestimated and downplayed the size, noise, danger, and threat of every single one of the many impacts of their operations on our community, on the area’s environment, its amenity, safety and economy.

Now AGL’s plans to apply to have Woolleys Beach Foreshore Reserve REZONED FOR PORT RELATED USE have only now been discovered because community members have been spending countless hours—days even—to read the detail contained in the EES reports .

It makes a joke of AGL and the claims made at local public meetings “as a company we haven’t always got it right but for this project we are trying to be as open and transparent with the community around the issues and to engage with you because we are not standing here asking you to trust us we are standing here to ask you to hold us accountable”

Candy vR 

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.

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.