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Greg Hunt must protect Westernport Bay from flawed Major Projects process

Environment and community groups from across Australia are calling on Federal Environmental Minister Greg Hunt to save the fragile environment of Westernport Bay amid ongoing concerns over the Coalition’s One Stop Shop policy.

The massive Hastings port expansion plan and associated land transport corridors will not only devastate the internationally important Ramsar-listed wetlands of Westernport, but also impact on the liveability of Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, the groups say.

“The Napthine Government wants to push through its expansion plans under the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009 – the same fast-track process that approved the East West Link project, which is about to face a Supreme Court challenge,” said Ariane Wilkinson, lawyer at Environmental Justice Australia.

“The only way Victorians can prevent the destruction of this protected wetland, home to many threatened species, is by appealing for Greg Hunt to intervene under federal environmental laws. Yet even this avenue of last resort is under threat from the Federal Government’s One Stop Shop policy.

“If the One Stop Shop policy is implemented, Minister Hunt can simply hand over his powers for this project to the Victorian Government.

“The Victorian Government has a clear conflict of interest in this project as both the proponents and regulators.

“The One Stop Shop policy will remove the last vestiges of federal oversight.

“We have no confidence that Victoria’s major projects legislation will provide adequate protection for the nationally important environment in Westernport.

“The Victorian Government has a clear conflict of interest in this project as both the proponents and regulators.

“And just like with the East West Link project, the road and rail connections to an expanded port will be assessed by this major projects legislation, which will be a real concern to communities along the transport corridor,” Ms Wilkinson concluded.

Simon Branigan, Marine and Coastal Projects Officer at Victorian National Parks Association, commented:

“The port expansion will not only impact the home of our iconic fairy penguins, but also the homes and lives of residents in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs.”

“According to the State Government’s Victorian Freight and Logistics Plan a rail transport corridor will need to be built from Dandenong and run through the middle of suburbs such as Caulfield, Toorak and Richmond, potentially requiring compulsory acquisitions.

“All this for a project that is an environmental disaster in waiting.

“Oil spill modelling shows that even a relatively minor oil spill would spread quickly throughout the bay, threatening fish, penguins and the beautiful beaches between Somers and Flinders.

“Under the One Stop Shop, the approval of the Hastings port expansion will be a fait accompli.

“We are urging Minister Hunt to stay true to his promise that if there is clear conflict of interest in major developments, he will not hand over his powers under federal environment laws.”

Jeff Nottle, chairman and spokesperson for Preserve Western Port Action Group, warned the project threatens the local tourism industry and jobs.

“The Victorian Major Projects Act means a big rubber stamp hangs over this project, unless Minister Hunt retains his powers to assess it.”

“The project threatens our $600 million tourism industry and the 5000 jobs that rely on that industry. It has already impacted whales in the area due to underwater drilling. Fewer whales mean less income for tourism operators.

“This is Greg Hunt’s electorate. He can’t turn his back on the livelihood of his constituents or the importance of the Ramsar wetland.

“Greg Hunt must intervene immediately to stop the Victorian Government ruining the future of Westernport."

The environment groups calling on federal environment minister Greg Hunt to intervene are the Victorian National Parks Association, Environmental Justice Australia, Preserve Western Port Action Group, Westernport and Peninsula Protection Council, Blue Wedges Coalition and French Island Port Stoppers.

For comment

Ariane Wilkinson, lawyer at Environmental Justice Australia –
0403 364 771
Simon Branigan, Victorian National Parks Association – 0409 087 278
Jeff Nottle, Chairman at Preserve Western Port Action Group – 0419 158 232

Download media backgrounders

Oil spill impacts on Westernport bird species
Oil spill impacts on Westernport seagrass, mangrove and saltmarsh

Download reports

Impact of proposed Port of Hastings expansion on the birdlife of Western Port

Impact of proposed Port of Hastings expansion on seagrass, mangroves and salt marsh

Comments

To: faine.jon@abc.net.au
Subject: Ports

Hi Jon

Thanks for today’s more in depth analysis of the proposed Port of Hastings expansion than is usually presented. Especially pleasing is Hermione Parsons' analysis of the logistics implications if Hastings was to handle the numbers of containers that the plans are predicated on.

However, what is often overlooked is the discrepancy between projected growth in container numbers and projected population growth, and therefore the “consumption” per capita (ie: numbers of containers moving through the state) that the project relies on to be economically viable. From figures readily available, it's clear that we would need to increase our consumption from an approx. 0.4 containers per capita per annum in 2014, to approx. 1.4 containers per capita per annum mid century. And that’s allowing for population growth.

I can’t find any credible data to confirm we would be increasing our disposable income by a commensurate amount by then. Aside from the obvious environmental impacts of this disproportionate growth in containers compared with population, how will we afford to service the growth in container movements that the “successful” port requires (buy the stuff), and where would we put it all?

Whilst I acknowledge that not every container is destined for Victoria, the vast majority are, and for those that aren’t, the impacts of their movement are still borne to some extent by Victoria.

I can’t see this growth trajectory contributing to better quality of life for Victorians, and wonder if we are becoming mere functionary units whose purpose is to prop up an economy.

The following slides give the data I refer to.

Cheers,

Jenny Warfe