LOOKING back at the article For the next milestone, it seems the Government, despite three questions from Clifford Hayes about how to deal with Western Port’s environmental future, has not budged from its original answer. On the other hand, the Opposition, via the Member for Brighton, has moved forward and is now looking to discuss the matter.
In this moment of reflection, for it was January this year when I first contacted a number of MPs about the need for a strategic management plan for Western Port and its region, there were times when it seemed like a hopeless task.
But thanks to the tenacity of the Bass Coast Post readers and to the community stakeholder discussions chaired by the Victorian National Parks Association, the matter has not gone away and I would suggest we have reached the next milestone: a renewed commitment to protect Western Port.
However, the next milestone may take some time to reach. For as Barbara Oates commented on my article Question time, with so many plans and strategies in existence, it is imperative we do not lose sight of the renewed commitment.
I agree with Barbara, for given the plans mentioned in ‘Question time’ and those now listed, it’s difficult to centre on what’s required to deal with the climate change issues confronting Western Port and, at the same time, devise an environmentally sustainable economic future for the region.
"We humans don't have the luxury of time. Many opportunities have been lost to procrastination and political point scoring. "
In an effort to focus on some key issues, I published a model known as the Western Port Strategic Management Plan – Starter Kit. It suggests that a regional approach should be adopted, and based on its goals, objectives and implementation strategy, use it to bring together the key elements from the various plans now tabled.
For example, the “project deliverables” from the South East Councils Climate Change Alliance, Strategic Plan (SECCCA) could be incorporated into my model, for as SECCCA states, “Our vision is for communities of the south east of Melbourne to be thriving, living a zero emissions lifestyle, and resilient to the changing climate.”
This alliance includes the four councils bordering Western Port: Mornington Peninsula Shire; City of Casey; Cardinia Shire Council; and Bass Coast Shire Council. In my model, they would constitute the Western Port Region.
Following on from the SECCCA proposal, there is another plan that needs to be considered in relation to Western Port and its region: The Southern Metro Land Use Framework Plan. Its principles and strategies apply to three of the councils named. Unfortunately, it does not include Bass Coast.
The framework abruptly stops at the border between Bass Coast Shire and Cardinia Shire and this seems short-sighted, for climate change, land and water use, population pressures and infrastructure needs don’t stop at this border.
The reluctance to continue the holistic approach as sponsored by the framework is, I think, worth challenging as agricultural production, tourism and commerce, wildlife corridors, remnant woodlands, and carbon sequestration activities on the land and in Western Port itself transcend bureaucratic boundaries. The waters of Western Port lap at all their foreshores and represent the lifeblood of this ecological, interconnected regional community.
The other plans named will also have to be considered, and somewhere in this mix, somebody will have to figure out what to do with Victoria’s share of the Morrison Government’s $100 million investment. It is earmarked “to continue leading the world and our region in how we manage our ocean habitats and coastal environments and contribute to the global task of reducing emissions.”
So, the challenge is before us to look to Western Port’s future, and most importantly in the run up to the next Victorian state election, extract from our politicians how they are going to assess the plans before them and come up with a strategic management plan for Western Port and its region.
I’ve referred to the tenacity of the Bass Coast Post readers, so I’ll leave the last word to Meg. I think she sums up the situation and, in a sense, speaks on behalf of many of the 6058 who objected to the AGL proposal. They are still out there somewhere, ready to be heard once more.
In commenting on the article ‘Question time’, Meg challenges the ‘decision makers’ and writes:
My questions to these people are why so long? Why the delay? Why can't there be a clear and concise plan, one that has definite timelines for achievement and evaluation? A plan that has ‘teeth’, not waffle words, rules not merely recommendations which unfortunately can be overturned. Isn't Westernport and its surrounds important enough?
Why is it so difficult? Local residents and many visitors recognise the areas’ importance. The health of Western Port and its surrounds affects the health of fauna and flora for generations to come.
"We humans don't have the luxury of time. Many opportunities have been lost to procrastination and political point scoring. So, get on with it. Let's see some action and real communication.”
Some other plans in play