The threat has still not gone away!! Last week we had an opportunity to talk with the Hon Jaala Pulford MP, Minister for Regional Development - including fishing. We provided the following letter;
The Hon Jaala Pulford
The Preserve Western Port Action Group is a subcommittee of the Phillip Island Conservation Society. We and our community are focused on preserving Western Port as we believe Western Port should be used for recreation and not industrialisation.
Our group would like to congratulate the Andrews Government on three comprehensive reports released since you came to office, in relation to the fragile environment of Western Port. These reports are:
• The Central Regional Coastal Plan;
• The Western Port Local Coastal Hazard Assessment; and
• The revised Western Port Ramsar Site Management Plan.
All three reports contain one very consistent theme and that is, Western Port must be maintained and enhanced for the recreational benefit of all Victorians and given the importance of the Bass Coast/Phillip Island tourism industry, indeed tourists from all over Australia and the world.
To further add to the vital part Western Port Bay plays in Victoria’s environmental and economic future, we must add the May 2015 release of the Governments “Target One Million” recreational fishers program.
ECONOMIC VALUE OF BASS COAST WESTERNPORT TOURISM/RECREATIONAL FISHING
Respected Government sponsored studies over the last two years have highlighted the economic impact importance of tourism and recreational fishing to the Western Port region’s economy, with a combined value of $1.2 billion PA and in the case of Bass Coast Shire, tourism is responsible for 5,000 FTE or 1 in 3 jobs. The above figure is a minimum, as no tourism figures for the eastern side of the Mornington Pensinsula could be extrapolated from those of the whole area.
What is in no doubt is the Western Port annual visitor figure of 8.5 million p.a. taken from the Parks Victoria Revised Safety and Environmental Management Plan, (SEMP), for the local ports of Port Phillip and Western Port
Your press release of 3 May 2015 quotes a figure of $2.3 billion pa benefit to the Vic economy from recreational fishing. Meaning that, 30% of the above figure is attributable to recreational fishing in Western Port Bay.
Also, in terms of ensuring the recreational fishing future of Western Port, will the Andrews Government undertake to remove the previous Governments 2011 much expanded Hastings Port limit??. If this was ever enforced, it would eliminate 75% of the safe, high tide fishable waters of the Bay. What’s left would become an overcrowded mess, both on the water and on the boat ramps, meaning that “Target One Million” would be almost impossible to achieve.
Our group has also undertaken research on what would occur if Western Port was dredged down far enough to penetrate the aquifers that supply irrigation water to the asparagus and other vegetable crops in the Bunyip Food bowl.
I have attached a copy of a recent presentation to the Asparagus Council of 14 March 2014 that outlines some of the issues related to the dredging for a container port and potential impact on aquifers.
GEOMORPHIC IMPACT OF A CONTAINER PORT AT HASTINGS
We have attached some information for your consideration that includes advice received from Associate Professor David Kennedy of Melbourne University that highlights the impact that dredging would have on
Western Port and the local beaches.
“There is a very high risk of greatly increased erosion throughout the northern, western and southern shores of Western Port including the eastern shoreline of Bass Coast around Coronet Bay and the Phillip Island north shore.”
We are aware of the process of establishing Infrastructure Victoria and support its establishment.
We urge you to ensure that the potential impacts on recreational fishing, agriculture and regional development and the associated impacts on jobs and the local community are included in the analysis. We believe that once industrialisation of Western Port commences with the construction of container port Victoria and the wider community stands to lose economically, environmentally and socially.
We recognise further work is required to comprehensively identify and quantity the adverse impacts and we would be pleased to discuss these issues with you as required.