MEDIA RELEASE 11 October  2022 |

Conservationists and community groups have launched a bold new plan to guarantee the future of Western Port Bay, Victoria’s second largest bay and an internationally recognised Ramsar wetland.

All political parties have been urged to back the plan for Western Port Bay ahead of the November 26 state election.

Western Port Bay has a serious water quality problem, with five of the nine estuaries which flow into it rated as “very poor”.

The population of the Western Port catchment is expected to double in the next 20 years alone, putting even more pressure on nature.

Substantial land use changes mean local rivers are carrying more pollution into the Bay.

The decline of snapper and waterbirds in Western Port Bay is a clear signal the Bay needs a new vision in order to thrive.

A Strategic Framework for the future of Western Port Bay sets out clear steps to protect the Bay from inappropriate industrialisation and development, pollution and climate disruption.

It comes 18 months after a successful community campaign convinced the Andrews government to block AGL’s destructive plan to establish a gas import terminal in Western Port Bay.

The new framework, which is backed by a broad alliance of community, tourism, local business and conservation groups, would:

  • Create a new co-ordinated strategic plan for Western Port Bay which recognises the natural values and future economic prosperity
  • Bring together Traditional Custodians, community representatives, government agencies, councils, local businesses and industries, fishing and recreational group to develop and oversee the plan
  • Establish a dedicated Western Port fund with annual funding at least equivalent to the Port Phillip Bay fund

The plan will be officially launched on Wednesday 11 October.

Key groups behind the proposal include the Victorian National Parks Association, Western Port Biosphere Foundation, Save Westernport, Phillip Island Conservation Society and Environment Victoria.

Quotes attributable to VNPA campaigner Shannon Hurley:

“For too long Westernport has been the poor cousin of Port Phillip Bay – that’s why it’s so important all political parties and candidates back this new protection plan.

“Western Port Bay’s health is severely declining, and the structures in place to protect this biodiversity hotspot cannot keep up with the level of threat.

“An ironclad commitment from all potential governments would guarantee the future of this precious ecosystem and its Ramsar-listed wetlands.

“It would also champion appropriate marine and tourism industries.

“There is growing momentum behind the campaign. We’re confident everyone vying for election in November will get on board with these common sense measures to protect one of Victoria’s natural treasures and the livelihoods that depend on it.”

Quotes attributable to Phillip Island Conservation Society Jeff Nottle:

“We have long awaited more protection for Western Port Bay, which has three to four times more marine life than Port Phillip Bay.

“That includes the largest colonies of Little Penguins, Short-tailed Shearwaters and Australian Fur Seals in the world. “

“A thriving tourist economy for our local region relies on the local environment and a healthy bay with local businesses.”


Quotes attributable to Western Port Biosphere Reserve Foundation CEO, Mel Barker:

“The Western Port Biosphere Foundation’s purpose is to advocate for planning and projects that enable communities to develop and live sustainably while protecting the environment that contributes so much to the lifestyle and prosperity enjoyed by residents and visitors to the Biosphere Reserve.

“A comprehensive and scientifically supported plan for Western Port is essential to taking action on climate and maintaining the region’s rich biodiversity, while promoting a healthy lifestyle and creating new opportunities and jobs.”

More information:

More information about the framework can be found at Groups, businesses and individuals can also sign up to support it at the website.

Key Facts:

  • The Western Port Bay Ramsar wetlands are rare, unique, and important for conserving biological diversity and support around 20,000 migratory birds that visit to nest every year.
  • The Ramsar wetlands are the heart of the UNESCO Western Port Biosphere Reserve.
  • No single tool under existing legislation can deliver the whole-of-bay environmental care and sustainable development needed.
  • Opposition to AGL’s recent gas import terminal demonstrates the groundswell of care and passion to protect Western Port Bay from risky industrial threats. Over 10,000 submissions were made opposing AGL’s  project – the largest number received in history.