FOR those who have followed my call for a Western Port Strategic Management Plan, I haven’t given up on the concept nor have I been indulging in strange substances, but I have taken time out and joined in the webinar series Space Exploration: An Update for Earthlings conducted by the Australian Earth Laws Alliance. The six-hour seminar spread across three sessions gave the audience the chance to connect with space engineers, space archaeologists, space lawyers, and governance experts from across the world.
One such forum did take place at Phillip Island in 2014. It was the Scenario planning for the Westernport Bay Region. I propose it’s time to build on this workshop and hold a second forum to set a vison for the region to be declared a Distinctive Area and Landscape; table a course of action based on a bioregional, nature-based, circular economy; gain public support; and present a submission to the government of the day.
In my previous attempts to move beyond the short-term electoral cycle fixes, I’ve presented arguments that have been supported by many Post readers. Their comments are strengthened by a visionary from the past. As part of my time-out journey, I’ve been listening to a recent episode of The Science Show in which Robyn Williams speaks of the pioneering work of Sir Charles Todd in achieving one of the great engineering feats of the 19th century: the Australian overland telegraph, now celebrating its 150th birthday.
“Sir Charles, it turns out, was a true man of STEM and he worked with others like him in Adelaide, then a scientific backwater. He stirred the very foundations of science in Australia. He showed how science and technology are connected, not in a box, and how a society needs a sense of the future. All of us need to dream to imagine how we'd like to live 20 to 30 years from now and how we can avoid the massive messes we're in, just making it up as we blunder along.”
When it comes to Western Port, we’ve been blundering along for some time now and the last hero to remind us of the need to think ahead was the late John Clarke. In Western Port – Cherished and Challenged John said, “The problems are quite easily identifiable. They’re not going to be easy to fix, but we have to do it. We caused them; it’s up to us now.”
It’s still up to us, but we keep putting off the need to take a holistic approach to caring for Country as exemplified by the First Nations people, and in so doing failing to capitalise on the legacy left by John and, most importantly, by the late Professor Maurice Shapiro’s strategic approach. In his 1975 report on Western Port (1), he wrote:
“The study has produced much new information of use in policy formulation. However to effectively utilise this information the roles and relationships of the planning and controlling bodies in policy formulation and environmental management need assessment. … This assessment should reveal areas of inadequate administration as well as areas of duplication and thus an effective mechanism for implementing the necessary actions arising from the results of the Study could be formulated. This matter requires urgent attention.”
The matter still requires urgent attention and now with climate change affecting all things on Planet Earth, who will take up the challenge on behalf of all those who cherish this region and want to “imagine how we’d like to live 20 to 30 years from now”?
In my article It’s time we set the agenda, I mentioned the work being undertaken by the Victorian National Parks Association to form a regional alliance, potentially known as the Western Port Conservation Group (WPCG). Perhaps WPCG should now take up the mantle and conduct the long-overdue public forum I’ve mentioned, for the state election is not far away. If nobody steps forward, the next state government will probably be quite happy with the status quo and the Western Port region will remain in limbo.
Meanwhile, you may be pleased to know the Australian Space Agency is planning to send a Luna robot to the moon by 2025-2027. Not bad for a fledgling agency considering that here on Earth we are still struggling to develop a strategic management plan for the long-term survival of Western Port and its catchment area.
Undoubtedly the space race is on, but I fear Western Port’s problems will live on and the Luna robot’s first transmission will say: “One giant leap for Australia; too bad Western Port, your time has come and gone.”
Good luck earthlings! We hope you can figure it out and find a new environmental hero, for we’re not keen for you to venture forth and destroy yet another planet.
(1) Shapiro M.A. (ed.) (1975a) Westernport Bay Environmental Study, 1973 - 1974. Environmental Study Series No. 502. Ministry for Conservation, Victoria.