PARK WATCH Article March 2023 |

The time is ripe for the fulfilment of our vision for Western Port Bay, writes Shannon Hurley

While the state government might be wishy washy on the issue, we’re more committed than ever to our plan to protect this living wetland haven from the wave of threats it faces.

In early November our discussions with the environment minister’s office about a blueprint for a healthy Western Port Bay looked promising. But when the state election rolled around later that month, the Labor Government was tight lipped and no commitment was forthcoming.

We’re not sure what part of our bold, science-led plan to manage, restore and legally protect the marine and coastal environment didn’t float their boat. Especially considering it had the backing of community, businesses, tourism and industry.

Caption: Boating on Western Port Bay. Credit: Julian Meehan

We may not have gained a formal commitment from the state government to adopt and realise ‘the Western Port Bay Framework’ (yet). But what we did gain was impressive, and all thanks to the dedication of the local community determined to bring this vision into fruition.

Here are just some of 2022’s grand achievements:

  • A very successful forum in Hastings attended by election candidates and community members.
  • A commitment from many candidates to champion the framework (many are now elected and we’re ready to work with them).
  • Over 60 businesses, groups (including community, tourism, and conservation) and councils signed on to support the plan.
  • Hundreds of individuals have pledged their support, including real estate agents, artists, carers, teachers, business owners, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons and more.
  • A brand new website where you can learn more and add your support
  • Community leaders who have stepped up and spoken to people who live and breathe both the beauty and the threats of Western Port every single day, spread the word on social media, approached others, and gave input to our plan.

Even for those of us who may only be occasional visitors to Western Port Bay’s inspiring land and seascapes, it’s not hard to acknowledge how special this place is.

With a new environment minister, the community is as keen as ever to push for the adoption of a new way of managing, caring and planning for the future of the Bay.

This is important work, because if we continue ‘business as usual’ we risk the continual degradation of Western Port Bay’s treasured natural character. Already we are seeing poor water quality flood the Bay, urban growth happening at the fastest rate of anywhere in the state, and proposal after proposal for yet another plan for its industrialisation, development and as a dumping ground for pollution.

Caption: Weedy Seadragon. Credit: Matt Testoni

The tide needs to turn!

Seeing Western Port Bay’s marine and coastal environment effectively managed and restored is no easy feat, that’s for sure. This is likely why it has not yet been achieved across a whole of bay scale. This means we’re doing something big.

If we bring together land and sea managers, Traditional Custodians, businesses, community groups, tourism, fishing and industry, we can break down the silos and fractured decision-making to create a collaborative approach to looking after the entire Bay.

It will take vision, drive, tenacity and courage. We have all that – all we need to do is bring our elected representatives on board.

Help us realise our plan

We are halfway there. We have done the grunt work. We have a plan. And we have support for the plan. Now we need prioritisation and investment from government to adopt and implement:

  • A new strategic plan for Western Port Bay – bringing together objectives, actions and programs into a coordinated planning and management tool that recognises the natural values of Western Port and the future economic prosperity of the region.
  • A new collaborative management partnership – bringing together Traditional Custodians, community representatives, government agencies, councils, local business and industries, fishing and recreational groups.
  • A dedicated Western Port fund with annual funding for its objectives (at least equivalent to the Port Phillip Bay Fund).

We have quite the task ahead of us: 2023 will require increasing the support, investing in community leaders, running events and thoughtful conversations with government and decision-makers.

To help us power this campaign and gain government support for the framework, we invite you to make a tax-deductible donation.

Help power the bold new plan