The Western Port Forum held on 22nd March 2014 at the Parish Hall in Cowes, run by PICS was a great success, with a full hall (over 100 people) and a unanimous vote to send the following motion to the Premier, Dennis Napthine and Opposition Leader, Daniel Andrews: “That this meeting inform the Premier, Dennis Napthine and Opposition Leader, Daniel Andrews, that the development of the Port of Hastings will negatively impact on the environmental, economic and social value of Western Port and Phillip Island and should not proceed.”
Preserve Western Port action group was officially launched, to campaign against the expansion of Port Hastings. The group will work closely with anti-port campaigners on the Mornington Peninsula.
Speakers at the forum talked about the potential impact of dredging on Western Port and Phillip Island.
Jeff Nottle, who was elected chairman of the action group, used naval charts of Western Port to show how dredging could have calamitous results for Cowes, Rhyll and Silverleaves, where hundreds of houses have already been identified as subject to inundation from rising seas.
Wildlife photographer Lisa Schonberg, who has documented the bay’s marine life, including hundreds of whales, spoke of the potential disruption of the annual whale migration in Western Port and Bass Strait.
Dr Alexia Dennett, convener of the Western Port Waders, which has documented bird life in the Ramsar-listed Western Port for 40 years, spoke of the bay’s importance as home and stopover for hundreds of bird species, many of them endangered.
Jenny Warfe from the Blue Wedges Coalition talked about the coalition’s unsuccessful campaign to stop dredging in Port Phillip Bay.
She said the rationale for a second container port – that consumption by Victorians would rise from an average of 0.4 containers each a year to 0.9 by 2025 – should be challenged.
She also advised campaigners to attempt to quantify the bay’s “natural capital”, that is, environmental and social values, to counter the “inflated claims” of those driving the port project.
Phillip Island Conservation Society stalwart Margaret Hancock said the bay had been under constant threat since the 1960s when then premier Henry Bolte announced his dream of Western Port becoming Victoria’s “Little Ruhr”, possibly including a nuclear reactor on French Island.
When an oil terminal was planned at Crib Point in 1993, she said, “We were told that if the terminal did not go ahead, the state of Victoria would be financially ruined and the world as we knew it would end.
“The terminal did not go ahead. The state of Victoria was not financially ruined and the world is still much as we knew it.”
The photo shows 6 of the 7 speakers. Left to right: Xenia Dennett (Western Port waders); Jenny Warfe (Blue Wedges); Jeff Nottle (dredging impact on tides); Anne Davie (PICS President); Lisa and Alia Schonberg (whales and other marine life in Western Port).