Article originally appeared on www.basscoastpost.com , March 8th, 2014 by Catherine Watson:
THE campaign against a massive expansion of the Port of Hastings is gathering force with public meetings on both sides of the bay and two major environmental groups speaking out against the plan.
On Tuesday, Phillip Islanders campaigning against the port expansion met their counterparts from the other side of Western Port at the Somers yacht club.
The Phillip Island campaign begins in earnest with a public meeting in Cowes on March 22.
Phillip Island Conservation Society stalwart Margaret Hancock warned that it would be a long and arduous campaign.
“We’ll work with our friends on the other side of Western Port to do what we can to prevent this proposal or make it reasonable.
“Western Port is not just a pretty picture. It provides real, quantifiable services to society.”
Professor Robert Costanza
“This is just the beginning of a very long process, so if you’re thinking of getting involved, don’t use up all your energy right at the start.”
About 100 people at the Somers forum heard details of a study published that day by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) that questions the economic rationale of locating a major port in a bay of such high environmental value.
The ecosystem service value of Westernport Bay assesses the bay’s natural values at $2.6 billion a year in terms of tourism, fish nurseries, processing of nutrient pollution and other environmental services.
Releasing the report, the ACF and the Victorian National Parks Association called for the state government to carry out a full cost-benefit analysis of the port development, and for the federal government to hold an independent inquiry.
ANU Professor Robert Costanza, a world leading expert in ecological economics, said Western Port was a significant natural capital asset. “It’s not just a pretty picture. It provides real, quantifiable services to society.
“The bay provides many of the ecosystem services that support our economy. Those services create an environment for flourishing fish nurseries, they regulate nutrients, clean and filter pollution and are the backbone of a thriving local tourism industry, yet these values are rarely quantified in dollar terms.”
Westernport and Peninsula Protection Council president Karri Giles backed the call for a full cost-benefit analysis that took into account the bay’s natural values.
“This massive new port is being promoted as good for the economy, but it also threatens the economy by increasing the potential for oil spills that directly threaten ecosystem services such as the bay’s capacity to deal with nutrient pollution in stormwater run-off,” she said.
“We need a full costing of these ecosystem services so we know what’s at risk from a port development that will require dredging and risk the potential for oil spills and the introduction of new marine pests.”
ACF spokesman Jess Abrahams said the bay provided critical environmental services.
“It’s far more than just a shipping channel for freight; it’s a key green infrastructure asset for Victoria.”