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?

 

‘Through Our Hands’ lyrics (Marty Williams, Matt Sykes & Lynn Webber ‘20 )

‘Through Our Hands’ lyrics (Marty Williams, Matt Sykes & Lynn Webber ‘20 )

 

Standing by the water
I’m standing on the edge
Mar-ran biik is calling
Return to Warn mar-rin

I came here with my brothers
my sisters by my side
I come here with my elders
& my children as my guides

We stand here as one people
Our witness to this time
We hold each other’s spirits
the sand, the sea, the sky

We are the Land, We are the waters
We are what lives, beneath the surface
We stand as one, all sons and daughters
& through our hands,
our Mother nurtures.

We’re waking up the seeds
That have been waiting in the ground
I know that through these hardened times
Our memory will soon be found

So dance on my horizon
Across our misty clouds of doubt Become my absolution
My pinnacle of love

We are the Land, We are the waters
We are what lives, beneath the surface
We stand as one, all sons and daughters
& through our hands,
our Mother nurtures

Through our hands, through our hands Through our hands, through our hands, Through our hands, through our……hands.

 

#savewesternport stands with #schoolstrike4climate

#savewesternport stands with #schoolstrike4climate

https://www.schoolstrike4climate.com/buildourfuture

Save Westernport supports everyone doing at-home protests against gas development on this Global Day of Action against Gas.
Many people on the Mornington Peninsula are running online or private events, joining Hundreds of Thousands of people protesting about the gas threat here in Australia.

Check out the local events for this global day of action here
https://www.schoolstrike4climate.com/buildourfuture

Today the @schoolstrikeforclimate are calling us to flood the PM @scottmorrisonmp on social media —twitter, Facebook, Instagram, tiktok, and with phonecalls (02)6277 7700 to tell him we demand a safe, clean funded future, not a gas lead recovery.

Let’s call the PM to tell him that gas is no ‘transition fuel’. It’s just as dangerous and inefficient to burn as coal, and every dollar spent on it is a dollar taken from the Renewable Energy solutions needed to power our future.

Our demands are no public funds for gas and other damaging fossil fuel projects. Instead, recovery funds should be spent on.

1. Resourcing aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led solutions that guarantee land rights and care for country.

2. The creation of jobs that fast-track solutions to the climate crisis and help communities recover.

3. Projects that transition our economy and communities to 100% renewable energy by 2030x through expanded public ownership”.

Thank you @sachaguggenheimer #fundourfuturenotgas @schoolstrikeforclimate rallies are being held around Australia . @scottmorrisonmp

Sacha: ecosystem collapse will destroy far more than just our economy. We’ll look back on Coronavirus and think, what a walk in the park compared to the devastation brought on us by #climatechange

Link in my bio to the online @schoolstrikeforclimate wrap up rally at 6pm EST. We’re in a pandemic, so this Day of Action won’t have us gathering in huge numbers, but each of us will be taking action, however and wherever we can.


💪🌎 @savewesternport

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/17/scott-morrisons-gas-led-recovery-what-is-it-and-will-it-really-make-energy-cheaper

EES Directions Hearing Begins

EES Directions Hearing Begins

The Directions Hearing for the Environment Effects Statement on AGL’s gas import proposal was held on September 17.

For the first time an EES Hearing will be live-streamed via video link due to COVID restrictions.

The Hearings will be chaired by Kathy Mitchell, Chief member of the five-member Inquiry Advisory Committee Panel. The Panel was appointed by the Victorian Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne to oversee the EES Hearings and advise him of their findings at its conclusion.

Ms Mitchell was clear and direct as she explained the purpose of the Directions Hearing, and laid out the schedule. The Panel Hearings will review the Environment Effects Statement that AGL prepared, and the thousands of submissions that the public has written in response. 

The IAC Hearings will begin October 12continuing every day except Fridays and weekends until mid December. The Panel will break for Christmas and return their finding sometime in mid-February 

The Hearings will be live streamed, and recordings made available the following day along with other information on the EngageVic IAC website here

At the Directions Hearing on September 17, each of the Panel members introduced themselves, followed by the legal teams for the represented parties. These were:

– The local Mornington Peninsula Shire Council

– Cardinia Shire Council 

– Key community and environmental groups Save Westernport, Environment Victoria and Victoria National Parks Association, (VNPA) represented by Environmental Justice Australia (EJA)

– the EPA 

– the Proponents AGL, and pipeline company APA

– the Port of Hastings Development Authority

An article about the Directions Hearing appeared in the Australian Financial Review the following day. 

The two most important aspects of the Directions Hearing were. 

1. Legal Counsel for Mornington Peninsula Shire Council (MPSC) requested the Hearings to be adjourned on the grounds that expert witnesses have not been able to conduct necessary site inspections due to current Stage 4 Lockdown restrictions.

They argued that it would be procedurally unfair to require expert witnesses for the Council and other groups to give evidence on subjects including visual amenity, marine impacts, coastal flora and fauna, traffic and more, without the benefit of visiting the various locations that would be affected by AGL’s project.

The IAC Panel seemed reluctant to allow any change to the Hearing schedule, but gave no reason for the rushed agenda.

In May this year AGL CEO Brett Redman claimed in The AGE that the EES process should be ‘fast-tracked’.

This led to concerns that the AGL CEO’s comments might have unduly influenced Minister Wynne’s decision that led him to announce that the EES would proceed without due regard for the difficulties of COVID-19, the State of Disaster, or the escalating restrictions of Stage 4 lockdown that as predicted, have been making participation in the EES process so difficult for the public. 

The Minister for Planning refused to be swayed by appeals from Save Westernport, from the Mornington Peninsula Mayor, local Member for Flinders Greg Hunt MP, and hundreds of members of the community, requesting that he consider how greatly the limitations of the pandemic would compromise people’s ability to write submissions and participate in the Public Hearings if the EES were allowed to proceed with COVID restrictions still in effect.

This will be the first time an EES Hearing has ever had to be remotely operated. DELWP representatives have confirmed that it is also the most complex EES ever held in Victoria.

Just as COVID restrictions limited the ability of the public to collaborate on reviewing thousands of pages of AGL’s EES reports to make a submission, AGL will also benefit from the inevitable advantage they’ll receive due to the considerable challenges of COVID-19 and the ways that will impact the EES Hearing. 

For the last two years, Witnesses for AGL have been able to visit the area without restriction. In contrast, our expert witnesses may not ever have the chance to see the proposed locations before being required to give evidence at the Hearing. 
Groups including Save Westernport will have difficulty  advising our legal teams in real time when neither of us can be present during the Hearings.  

In response to the request for an adjournment, the IAC Chair asked whether the local Council could simply issue permits to allow expert witnesses to visit the proposed locations. Panel members we’re issued with permits to visit the area last week.

In his response the Shire’s legal Counsel referred to the State government’s list of exemptions to COVID restrictions, pointing out that it does not allow for witnesses.

The Panel Chair stated that twice during their recent visit to the area, the Members’ vehicle was stopped by local police patrols to check their permits and ask where the group was going.

According to Ms Mitchell, unless permits for site visits can be arranged, we may have to accept that our expert witnesses will have to give evidence without the benefit of ever viewing the areas they’re required to report on.

Nevertheless, expert witnesses will play an important role, challenging AGL and the information they provided in their EES reports during the Hearings.

You can help us meet to costs of providing expert witnesses by DONATING to Save Westernport’s Fundraising campaign here. Expert witnesses will test AGL’s claims, and present detailed evidence on key subjects at the Hearings.

 

2. The second point of interest resulting from the Directions Hearing was Panel Chair Kathy Mitchell’s announcement that the IAC overseeing the Hearings and the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council have each issued AGL and APA with requests for further information that was not available in their EES reports.

Among the many tabled documents on the IAC website, are the extensive lists of further information that the proponents must supply.

These requests confirm what we discovered when AGL’s EES reports became available: they lack important detail and rely on flawed modelling, questionable data and incorrect assumptions.

The lists of extra information required by the IAC Panel and Mornington Peninsula Shite Council  are extensive and include requests for details of tidal and weather conditions that should’ve been provided with the original field work in the original EES reports and pipeline application.

Data on greenhouse gas emissions, on the handling of chlorine and formaldehyde, management of contamination by potential acid sulphate soil (PASS), management of increased truck traffic, the inadequacy of mitigation strategies and disposal of the oily sludge produced during regasification are further examples of the kind of extra information that is sought.

Other examples were listed in an article in the Financial Review this week.

AGL needed two years to prepare their EES reports. They now have until September 25 to outline how they plan to provide all that requested information to the Panel.

Counsel for the proponent AGL, Mr Townsend attempted to make light of the requests, claiming that additional information is routinely requested at this stage. However, if these details were available to AGL, surely they would have included it in their original EES it was released.

A recording of the Directions Hearing, and thousands of submissions from the public have been made available on the IAC Planning Panels website here

https://engage.vic.gov.au/crib-point-IAC

Panel Chair, Ms Mitchell provided this list of the main themes emerging in the public submissions so far. 

Members of the public who made submissions on the EES will be able to address the Panel at the Public Hearings. Whether people initially requested to speak for one hour or one minute, the large numbers of people wanting to address the Panel has made it necessary for spoken submissions from the public to be limited to just 8 minutes each.

This stage of the Hearings probably won’t commence until about mid November, and everyone who applied to speak will address the Panel via Zoom video link.

Suggested sites for the IAC Panel to visit, and numerous witness statements are available in the Tabled Documents for the Hearing. This list is constantly being updated.

For more information on the EES Hearings contact Andrea Harwood or Georgia Thomas of Planning Panels Victoria (03) 8392 5116

cribpoint.IAC@delwp.vic.gov.au.

The Mornington Peninsula Shire Council has suggested that the Panel should visit sites on French Island, Woolleys Beach and Warringine Park. It’s hoped that Panel members will appreciate the extent of environmental degradation the AGL proposal would bring unless it is rejected.

Warringine Park, between Crib Point and Hastings lies within the Westernport Ramsar site. The Park is considered significant to the survival of critically endangered migratory bird species, including the Far Eastern Curlew and the Fairy Tern. 

If the project ever went ahead, Warringine Park would be severely impacted by the construction of a new gas pipeline that would bisect its fragile wetlands.

A Virtual Tour of Warringine Park is available here

Bass Coast Council has also suggested several a locations on Phillip Island.

A virtual tour of Ryhll on Phillip Island is available here

If AGL proceeded with their deeply unpopular plans, upper estimates of 40 LNG tankers per year would increase commercial shipping traffic in Westernport by as much as 40% for the next twenty years.

The ever-present spectre of AGL’s proposed floating gas factory at Crib Point, the visiting LNG tankers, dredging (‘levelling’) and diesel-belching tug boats, would permanently change the character of Westernport, altering its vista across the Bay from nearly every lookout and vantage point.

This and other disastrous impacts and safety concerns are detailed Save Westernport’s submission against the AGL proposal and EES. Read it here.

Despite the limitations and difficulties of COVID, we should congratulate ourselves that a total of 6,059 submissions have officially been received by the EES Panel in opposition to the AGL proposal.

These public submissions can be viewed here on the IAC website ( Inquiry Advisory Committee).
The Panel Chair confirmed at the Hearings that a controversial decision by Planning Panels Victoria has resulted in thousands of submissions being excluded from the official tally. Save Westernport raised this matter through our legal representative at the Directions Hearing. This resulted in the official tally being revised upwards from 3083 to 6059.

Even though this total smashed all previous records for EES submissions received in Victoria, the Panel’s decision not to count as many as half the submissions received has angered and disappointed many people.

This outcome was attributed to “incorrect advice” that meant thousands of submissions were lodged through an alternative government email address.

Understandably, the decision has been confusing, because the department acknowledges receiving some, but not all of the submissions through the alternate, (incorrect) website, and all submissions in question were received before Planning Panel’s deadline on August 26.

While submissions in this group will not be counted as individual submissions, Planning Panels Victoria states that they WILL be still be reviewed, and the information they contain taken into account. 

The enormous number of submissions against the AGL proposal is still many times greater than the numbers usually received for EES projects in Victoria, which confirms the extent of community interest, concern and overwhelming opposition to AGL’s plans.

Remember, Save Westernport is still raising urgently needed funds to take on AGL at the Panel Hearings on October 12.

 

Save Westernport will be represented during the EES Hearings by Environmental Justice Australia. However, we are still short of our target to provide legal Counsel throughout the two months of Hearings, and to engage expert witnesses to challenge the inadequate technical and ecological information contained in AGL’s EES reports. 

The average cost of an expert witness to provide a report and undergo cross examination by AGL’s barristers is over $5,000 each.

You can help by donating to help us meet the costs of expert witnesses and legal representation to take on AGL at the EES Hearings. Our barristers will be required to attend up to ten weeks of Hearings, and will be appearing at a greatly reduced rate. 

If you’re able to help us challenge AGL, you’ll also be helping us make sure the community’s interests are represented at the EES Hearings, 

PLEASE MAKE A DONATION TODAY.

We are determined to demonstrate how inappropriate and unnecessary AGL’s Gas import plans in Westernport really are.

 

 

 

 

 

Emphatic NO! to Gas Plan

Emphatic NO! to Gas Plan

 

Last week the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council ran a poll on their website that asked—

“Do you support AGL’s proposal for a gas import jetty and pipeline in Westernport Bay?”

More than two thousand people responded, with an overwhelming 93.6% answering NO –  a clear sign of the community’s emphatic rejection of controversial plans by gas giant AGL to import and process LNG near Crib Point for the next twenty years.
Read about it in this week’s Mornington Peninsula News

The decisive result was no surprise. Ever since AGL named the coastal village of Crib Point as their ‘preferred location’ to process gas, members of Save Westernport have been expressing the extent of local opposition to the company’s CEO and Boardmembers.

AGL seriously misrepresented the suitability of the proposed site, telling the government they could “make use of existing infrastructure”, when the project would require the construction of a 60km pipeline.

It’s now widely recognised that Westernport’s internationally recognised wetlands and unique marine ecology are entirely incompatible with the heavy industry of its past. 

What’s more— Westernport’s mangroves and Coastal Saltmarsh ecosystems are directly threatened by our dependence on fossil gas.
AGL must not be permitted to profit from perpetuating the misguided practices of a bygone era.

Save Westernport believes the company’s shareholders expect a great deal more from AGL, and we plan to make this clear to the members of the Board at their AGM later this month.

Forcing a project that has been overwhelmingly rejected by this community and its Shire Council would imperil the company, exposing AGL to the enormous risk of further degrading its tenuous reputation.

Read the recent article in the Mornington Peninsula News

Here.

Remember :

Save Westernport is urgently raising funds to engage expert witnesses to represent Westernport and challenge AGL at the Environment Effects Statement Panel Hearings next month.

We will be taking on the vested interests and limitless resources of the AGL corporation. The cost of providing marine and other experts, and legal representation—even by the good people at Environmental Justice Australia—are enormous.

But this is our one chance to make it clear to the Planning Panel: we want to see Westernport protected and valued as the priceless treasure that it is.

Please make a donation and help us make sure AGL’s irresponsible plans in Westernport are NOT APPROVED ! However big or small, if we pool the resources of our wonderful community, we can do this.

Contact secretary@savewesternport.org

 

‘Emphatic no’ to gas plan

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.

Gayle’s Story

Gayle’s Story

I was born in 1956 and spent many of my formative years living in Razorback Road Flinders. I came to love the southern Mornington Peninsula and Westernport became my spiritual home and my refuge.

I was a competitive swimmer from a young age. My father would drive me to Rosebud at 4.30 am. I also used to swim in the pool at Cerberus Naval Base. When we lived in Murrumbeena in the 90’s I would rise and swim at Harold Holt Pool at 5 am every morning. 26 years ago, just for the fun of it, I entered the veterans swim comp at the Olympic Pool. I won the hundred metre freestyle! I also swam Pier to Pub and the Lorne race a few times. I loved my swimming.

25 years ago, I founded a business. I created a skin care range using indigenous flora. It became a range for the growing Day Spa industry. The product was entirely organic, and I operated on the mantra of ‘tread lightly ‘. I was privileged to be introduced to First Nation Elders who introduced me to healing plants and ancient healing practices. The business was successful and innovative. There was, however, something missing in my life.

I had 4 children and a business that gave me little free time.

Many who grow up, or spend formative years, around Westernport are drawn back. We were. We moved to Flinders in 2003. I yearned to rekindle my love of horses. My yearnings proliferated and we needed to move to Red Hill to accommodate more, and then more horses. Our property backed on to the Merricks Riding Trail. We loved to ride our horses and walk our beloved Labradors on the trail. We would regularly walk with our Labradors from Shoreham to Flinders. How wonderful that was. Westernport Bay has the marvellous talent of being different every day.

On the Queen’s Birthday weekend in 2008, my fractious mare misbehaved, reared and jammed me into a very large old pine tree. I spent two and a half hours lying face down in mud, semi-conscious and in great pain. I had broken numerous bones and shattered my pelvis. The ambulance officer later said they should have called in a helicopter; hindsight of course. I was in hospital for weeks and then rehab to learn to walk again. As soon as I was out of a wheelchair, I was back in the bay at Merricks Beach swimming.

Swimming in the bay was my therapy.

In early 2009, April in fact, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was still using a walking stick. Very shortly after it was The Freemasons for major and urgent surgery. Various tumours, one nearly the size of a house brick, were removed. As soon as I could, I was back in the Bay. It was my therapy, my comfort and my time to come to terms with a voracious and wicked enemy.

Over the next 4 years I endured 6 more torrid and invasive surgeries. I had numerous horrible courses of powerful chemotherapy. I lost numerous organs over this time. What kept me focused and on course was swimming at Merricks Beach. We would also walk every morning with our wonderful Labradors, sometimes more slowly than others.

Westernport Bay is precious and delicate. We have a responsibility to protect it. It is our duty to our First Nation peoples. Westernport has been their land for tens of thousands of generations. I have 4 children and 5 grandchildren, and we are obligated to protect it for them.

We have an earth given responsibility. Neither AGL, their partners, or anyone else has a right to assume control for their tainted profit driven purposes.

On Good Friday 2013 I at 12.50pm, I passed away peacefully at home in Myers Road. I spent my last weeks at home with a view of my horses, with family and our Labradors. Out my window I could see the beautiful Westernport and the Nobbies. I now rest in Flinders Cemetery, a stone’s throw from Westernport with both of my parents and my parents in law. Westernport is not far away, and it remains in my heart and soul.

We have an earth given responsibility, AGL has the same…….to stay away.

 

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.

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.