UPDATE: The Victorian Government rejected AGL’s proposal for a gas import terminal in Westernport Bay on 30 April. Latest information here.
PARK WATCH March 2021 |
The government decision on the future of the “wild and gentle beauty” of Westernport Bay is imminent, writes Nature Conservation Campaigner Shannon Hurley.
Last year ended with a mammoth effort by statewide and local organisations, groups, government agencies, councils and individuals to reveal the environmental and social impacts of AGL’s planned gas import terminal at Crib Point.
One thing is clear – there is overwhelming community opposition to AGL proposal for Westernport Bay.
The Public Hearing from 12 October to 17 December was a crucial part of the process for the Victorian Government to consider and assess the project’s environmental impacts through the Environmental Effects Statement (EES) process.
The community response was phenomenal. Hundreds of hours were spent reading and analysing reports, watching the livestream every day for ten weeks straight, working with barristers, preparing and presenting, and defending and arguing the science.
For many of us, Westernport Bay has strong emotional ties and connections that run deep. This was evident throughout the Public Hearing, with people pouring their hearts out online to whoever was watching about how much this special place means to them and their communities. A small snapshot of environmental, cultural and social concerns is reflected opposite.
Over 6,000 submissions were received prior to the Public Hearing – an incredible effort – in which the vast majority were against the project going ahead.
Many of you also generously donated to the campaign – your support made a real difference. We commend everyone that showed their dedication to protecting their Westernport Bay.
Read more about VNPA’s involvement and findings from the EES in our last Park Watch: www.vnpa.org.au/speaking-out-forwesternports-wildlife
Now that the full range of the project’s risks have been brought to the foreground and the strength of community opposition displayed, it is almost time for our state and federal governments to make their decision.
Will they favour the community, whose overwhelming opposition to the project emphatically demonstrates we don’t want the project? Or gas giant AGL, who do not have failed to properly identify a decent rationale for the need for the project in the first place? A gas import terminal has already been approved in NSW’s Port Kembla which will be able to sufficiently meet the needs of Victoria in the instance of a gas shortfall through the national gas grid.
The coming month will be critical. At the end of February, the Inquiry and Advisory Committee (IAC) that oversaw the Public Hearing submitted their final report with recommendations to the Victorian Planning Minister, Richard Wynne. The Minister has 25 business days to make his assessment on the environmental effects of the project (by around 26 March).
It is unclear which way the Victorian Government will go, and there are a number of other approvals and decisions also to be made at the state level. On 8 February, the Victorian Liberal opposition came out very vocally against the project in an announcement made at Crib Point Jetty by Neale Burgess, State Member for Hastings, and Ryan Smith, the Shadow Minister for Energy and Renewables. Although they oppose AGL’s project for Crib Point, they seemingly still support gas extraction within Victoria rather than gas being imported from other states.
Let’s hope their national counterpart, the Scott Morrison-lead Coalition, also follows suit when the project comes across the desk of the Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley. This is likely to take place sometime in May, after the Victorian Government’s decision.
Independent and expert analysis clearly shows this project poses wide-spread and irreversible damage to the entire marine and coastal ecosystems of Westernport Bay. It’s simply far too great a risk.
We urge the state and federal governments to reject this project due to AGL’s failure to properly identify and mitigate the risks to this highly-sensitive and valued ecosystem.
Urge the Victorian Planning Minister and Federal Environment Minister to reject AGL’s gas import terminal at Crib Point.
‘Speaking out for Westernport’s wildlife‘, Park Watch December 2020
‘Westernport – a wildlife wonderland at risk’, Park Watch September 2020
‘Too sensitive and precious to risk’, Park Watch June 2020
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