THE response to my article Let’s get together has shown there is support for a community- based forum. The 12 agenda items have struck a chord of approval, and some have presented their ideas and are ready to discuss the future of the Western Port Region.
I’d like to expand on two of the agenda items:
Item 3. “Extend the UNESCO Western Port Biosphere Reserve to encompass a greater percentage of the Western Port catchment area.”
If the Biosphere is to fulfil its role of becoming a major contributor to reducing carbon emissions and offering greater climate resilience for the region, its north and north-east boundary should be extended beyond its narrow coastal strip.
- take into account more of the sand mining operations in the region and hopefully move the operators and the State Government to be conscious of their responsibility to protect the environment they seek to exploit;
- reduce the likelihood of the Lang Lang Proving Ground falling into the hands of those seeking to develop its commercial potential and conceivably destroy the environmental habitat of the flora and fauna within its boundary and beyond;
- further enable the Biosphere to become an integral part of the wider Western Port catchment area; and
- reinforce the fact that the Western Port Woodlands is part of the UNESCO Biosphere.
Even if the current Distinctive Areas and Landscapes Standing Advisory Committee inquiry recommends sand mining operations cease in the woodlands, a state government can ignore the recommendation. If the Andrews government continues its current policy on this matter, it is undermining the Biosphere’s purpose and pillaging what’s left of the woodlands.
Item 7. “Initiate a regional business plan based on a carbon-neutral, nature-based circular economy capable of producing and sustaining regenerative and ecologically friendly non-toxic produce, goods and services.”
In the 2014 workshop, the participants were asked to develop four plausible 2040 scenarios for the Western Port Region. At the time, 2040 seemed a long way off but, as we now realise, we are fast running into a situation dependent on us coming to terms with the effects of climate change and the necessity to deliver a strategic management plan for the region.
At the proposed “Western Port Country – a new beginning” planning workshop, it would be fitting to invite Emeritus Professor Robert Costanza back to speak. I’m sure he would have some interesting retrospective views and predictions for the future.
If Robert is unavailable, perhaps Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe, AO, could be invited to be the keynote speaker. In 1996, Ian chaired the advisory council producing the first National Report on the State of Australia’s Environment and from 2004 to 2014 was president of the Australian Conservation Foundation.
In a video address Are Sustainable Futures Still Possible?, Ian says the short answer to his question is yes. “The longer answer is that they look less probable with every day, week, month and year due to the masterly inaction by governments that seem blissfully unaware of the cold hard fact that the way we are developing at the moment is palpably not sustainable.”
This is a sobering message. It suggests there’s a need for some straight talking about the environmental and economic future of the Western Port Region and we may do well to look to Melbourne Water for guidance. Its Port Phillip & Western Port Regional Catchment Strategy is a comprehensive guide to “conserving our region’s land, waters and biodiversity so they continue to sustain and enrich life, economies, health and social wellbeing for this and future generations.”
As we head to an uncertain 2040 future, we will need to develop a shared vision. As Robert Costanza said of the 2014 workshop, “developing this vision is essential for ensuring that we consider all the possibilities for Western Port and generating a broad discussion of what kind of future people want”.
To help us on this journey then, perhaps the goal for agenda item 7 could be the Greenprints slogan: “Creating regenerative societies that live within ecological limits”.