Coalition Government Abandons Westernport & Phillip Island

The State and Federal Coalition Governments have abandoned Westernport and Phillip Island over plans to build a massive international container terminal in Westernport.

The State and the Port of Hastings Authority are not providing critical information and the Port Authority has gone into self declared caretaker mode until after the election.

The Bass Coast Shire Council sought funding from the State Government for an independent review of environmental documentation and The Hon David Hodgett MP Minister for Ports replied: “..a Peer Review of the environment studies that will be undertaken is not necessary......resources for any additional studies or reviews such as that requested by Bass Coast Shire, should be sourced from within Council’s budget.”

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has ignored calls and signed an agreement in October to pass Federal Environment assessments to the Victorian Minister for Planning!

Jeff Nottle Chairman of the Action Group said “Our group and other leading community and environmental groups as well as environmental lawyers lodged submissions to Greg Hunt and the Federal Environment Office urging the Environment Minister to not pass environmental assessments for the Port of Hastings to the Victorian Government. These views were ignored.”

Jeff Nottle added “The Federal and State Coalition Governments have simply walked away from Westernport and Phillip Island. Some last minute pre election coalition sweeteners have been thrown at the electorate in the hope that these will secure votes in the State election whilst charging ahead with the planning to build a massive international container terminal in Westernport.”

Help has arrived for Westernport and Phillip Island with the Greens and minority parties blocking the Federal Environment Minister’s Bill in the Senate to hand over Federal Environment approvals to the States. The move in the Senate has effectively stopped Greg Hunt’s handover of approvals to the States for now. However, as we have seen on other issues the Federal Government and the Environment Minister may seek a way around the Senate to complete the hand over.

The coalition is also throwing job numbers around and the community is being led to believe that jobs in logistics, freight forwarding and automated container operations are going to be offered to local residents. This is highly unlikely. What is clear is that the proposed container terminal will have an immediate and long term detrimental impact on jobs in the tourism and recreational boating industries that are worth $1.1B PA to the economy. The amenity offered by Westernport to the community will be lost forever.

Significant help for Westernport and Phillip Island has arrived from the internationally renowned Sea Shepherd who is rallying support for the Preserve Western Port Action Group.

Jeff Hansen, Managing Director, Sea Shepherd Australia said “If the Australian Government will not protect the whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, the least they can do is protect them closer to home and cease this destructive Western Port Development”.

“The little penguin parade is an iconic, world renowned tourism attraction, part of the UNESCO Western Port Biosphere Reserve, it has global significance and deserves the outmost protection from the threats the Western Port Development proposes.”

Mr. Hansen went on to say, “With up to 3,000 large vessels arriving every year, we will see boat strikes and whales deaths. Whales and dolphins live in a world of water and sound. They feed, communicate and find their way around their world using sound. This Western Port Development will have a catastrophic impact on the Southern Rights and Humpback whales ability to communicate and navigate in the area due to the destructive noise pollution from this massive expansion in shipping.”

Further international help has arrived following a deputation by local environmentalists to RAMSAR in Switzerland. The Ramsar Secretary General Dr Christopher Briggs arrived in Westernport on 10 November to inspect the site and talk with local environment groups.

Business groups including importers, exporters and freight forwarders are also uniting to oppose the proposal. Victoria University Institute of Supply Chain and Logistics estimate over 4,000 additional trucks on the local roads, 95% increase in costs for industry and 113% increase in emissions and air quality degradation.

It is incredible to have community, environmentalists, business and the logistics industry oppose the container terminal and the local State and Federal Coalition MPs turn their backs.

Voters next Saturday can vote to preserve Westernport by supporting candidates who oppose the building of the container port at Hastings.

For comment

Jeff Nottle, Chairman Preserve Western Port Action Group- 0419 158 232 20 November 2014