WHEN a political party or independent members of a parliament bother to reply or take up a cause just under two years out from an election, one could say they are genuinely interested in the matter or politically astute.
In my article Hello Spring Street, are you listening?, I said the time had come for our politicians to prepare a Western Port Strategic Management Plan and present it to the electorate before the next Victorian state election.
I sent the article to my local state members of parliament and other parliamentarians to gauge their potential support for a Western Port Strategic Management Plan.
The Victorian Greens, Fiona Patten’s Reason Party, two Liberal MPs, two Independents and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party all indicated they would be happy to engage in a further conversation with “the people” or if the matter came before the house. One Labor MP offered encouragement. And Clifford Hayes, from the Sustainable Australia Party, asked for additional information.
On February 18, according to page 522 of the Hansard record of Parliament, Mr Hayes asked the following question in the Legislative Council:
WESTERN PORT BAY
Mr HAYES (Southern Metropolitan) (18:13): The matter I would like to raise in the adjournment debate tonight is addressed to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. I would like to ask why there is not a strategic management plan for Western Port Bay. As it stands today, under the umbrella of Victoria’s Marine and Coastal Act 2018 we have the Western Port Ramsar Site Management Plan of 2017, the Marine and Coastal Policy of 2020 and Victoria’s Marine and Coastal Reforms: Final Transition Plan of 2017. In times gone by we could have probably kept muddling along with this collection of reports and plans administered by various government agencies, such as those listed, but the driver now is climate change. If we are to manage this situation, we need to develop a business plan, a holistic plan, that takes into account the environmental values and the social and economic needs of this region.
The Western Port Ramsar management plan is a wonderful plan for part of Western Port Bay, but what about the rest of it? There is a model for this approach: the Port Phillip Bay Environmental Management Plan 2017–2027. This plan offers a vast array of social, economic and environmental values to visitors and those who live and work around the bay and its surrounding catchment.
I ask that the government consider a similar strategic management plan for the entire Western Port Bay and not just the Ramsar wetland and consider the site in its entirety, not just one part of it. The respect for and protection of Western Port’s long-term environmental future need to be addressed, not only the impacts of climate change on water levels but protection of the seabeds and coastal areas. If the Victorian government believes, as stated, that there will be a 0.8-metre sea level rise by the year 2100, what impacts will this have on Western Port? We do not know, as there is no strategic plan on how to address these impending issues. I ask that the minister initiate a plan for the entire Western Port Bay site to take into account the wide range of uses in the region and long-term climate effects, which do and will continue to threaten the site.
The government is yet to reply.
I imagine the reply will be left till after the AGL/APA project decision for Crib Point has been tabled by the Planning Minister. Added to this is a plan to export liquefied hydrogen through the Port of Hastings. There is a lot to consider.
Quite possibly, the government’s response will be carefully worded so as to avoid any commitment at this stage – I hope I am wrong and the call will be heeded by all.