PARK WATCH Article December 2023 |

Shannon Hurley, Nature Conservation Campaigner, reports on competing needs in Western Port

Western Port is experiencing a paradox of energy proposals. On one hand, there is the Victorian Renewable Energy Terminal (VRET) to support the state’s offshore wind construction. On the other hand, is a Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) project, converting brown coal to hydrogen.

Let’s delve a little more deeply into what is proposed.

HESC would produce hydrogen gas from brown coal in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, transport the hydrogen by truck to the Port of Hastings to be exported to Japan. A glaring concern is how a new fossil fuel export project ends up in a Ramsar wetland during a climate crisis.

The Port of Hastings VRET is more in line with our framework that supports sustainable marine industries. However, we are concerned about the development’s unknown volumes of dredging for deepening of the channel, reclamation of 29 hectares of the wetland for a wharf structure, and the clearing of 25 hectares of vegetation. Any construction needs to be done in a way that avoids and minimises impact, with careful assessment of the proposed works.

Both proposals need careful assessment to make sure any negative impacts on Western Port’s Ramsar wetland and Biosphere Reserve are minimised.

We recently recommended, via the EPBC referrals process, the project go through the full environmental assessment before approval.

Western Port Bay framework

VNPA has been working alongside organisations, businesses, and groups in the Western Port region to secure a healthy future for Victoria’s second largest bay. We have made great progress on gaining support for our proposed Western Port Bay Framework, with nearly 70 groups and businesses, including the four local Councils now onboard. With a new environment minister on deck, it is unclear where our proposal now sits within state government.

The Cranbourne-Pakenham area is experiencing the fastest urban expansion in the state. The poor health of the waterways flowing into the bay, along with climate impacts and energy industry pressures, means a decision for about Western Port’s future must be made with all cards on the table, not in isolation of one another.

We continue to work with government and the port towards a vision for a thriving Western Port Bay.