PARK WATCH December 2020 |
Campaigner Shannon Hurley explains how AGL’s gas import facility is not fit for purpose for Westernport Bay.
From 12 October to 17 December we have had our heads submerged in the ten-week-long public hearings where AGL’s environmental impact assessment reports have been under scrutiny.
As it should be – they plan to build a massive industrial gas import terminal right in the home of whales, seals, penguins, wetland birds, mangroves and seagrass beds (Read more detail of the proposed project in September Park Watch).
It has been a critical period to put the proposed project under the microscope. VNPA, with Environment Victoria, Save Westernport and legal representatives Environmental Justice Australia, along with the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, local councils, government agencies, and other interested parties have had the opportunity to present their expert evidence and ask questions of AGL.
AGL has claimed that they have properly considered the impacts of their project on Westernport’s marine biodiversity values.
We have expert evidence on the contrary. From the very start, since AGLs environmental assessment reports have been on display, our expert evidence has shown the failure of AGL to address potentially major concerns in full on the impact to marine biodiversity.
These include the failure to address catastrophic events and threats of explosions, oil/fuel spills, ignoring of wetland birds and many Ramsar values, shortage of scientific backing for many marine biodiversity field studies, and lack of consideration of the full suite of ecosystem impacts from up to 47 kilograms of chlorine discharge in the surrounding water at Crib Point every single day.
Evidence in the public hearings has so far revealed how the potential impacts of the project have been down-played, devaluing the wildlife haven that is Westernport Bay. They have confirmed what we knew all along – the project studies lack scientific rigour and their assessments are not considered sound for environmental decisions and management, especially for an internationally significant Ramsar wetland.
Our team’s barristers and others representing local councils and government agencies have helped reveal the grave uncertainties, gaps and risks from the project, including:
- the under-estimation of the impacts of chlorine discharge
- inadequate mitigation measures to protect plankton and fish larvae
- the movement of contaminated sediments
- the lack of proper consideration of ship collisions, and the attendant risk of spills
- failure to address specific impacts, such as those on the Little Penguin colony at nearby Barrallier Island, off French Island.
What is clear is the many uncertainties and risks this project raises are far too great for Westernport Bay.
An internationally recognised and protected Ramsar wetland deserves the most stringent assessment to the highest level of environmental standards possible. So far, AGL has not shown anything like that.
What is promising is the appetite for media to cover the public hearings, with statewide and local media coverage of the hearings in The Age, Australian Financial Review, The Australian, and the Mornington Peninsula news.
The project is extremely unpopular with the Victorian community, who care deeply about our beloved Westernport Bay, and for the locals who have been active stewards – some their entire lives – in caring for their wetland backyard.
The Inquiry and Advisory Committee (IAC), appointed to consider the Environment Effects Statement (EES) and the public hearings, will report to the Minister for Planning, who will make his subsequent decision in early 2021.
We will continue to speak out to ensure they consider how the many uncertainties and risks of this project are far too great to risk Westernport’s sensitive and special natural values.
Will you donate to stop AGL destroying Westernport Bay?
Every action and every voice in opposition to AGL’s proposed Crib Point gas import terminal is important. When you choose to protest about this facility by making a donation, you give nature a voice.
AGL wants to risk our beautiful bay for a few short-term dollars, using a dodgy environmental analysis. Please donate to show them it’s just not on. Show them Victorians won’t stand for it.
See previous article ‘Westernport – a wildlife wonderland at risk’ in the September edition of Park Watch.
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