THE Preserve Westernport Action Group has told Infrastructure Victoria that a container port in Western Port could have a devastating impact on the region’s economy and environment.
After three years of campaigning, researching, educating and engaging with stakeholders and the local community, our volunteer group lodged their detailed submission to Infrastructure Victoria, which will make its final recommendations in May to the State Government on the location of Victoria’s additional container port.
“Such an outcome would impact on Victoria’s reputation as a tourist destination and the region’s ability to continue to operate as an environment based sustainable and effective service economy that currently supports thousands of regional jobs,” our submission states.
The full submission is at www.preservewesternport.org.au.
Over three years, since the then Liberal Government first announced that Victoria’s second major port would be at Hastings, we have distributed thousands of brochures and raised funds selling bumper stickers, T-shirts and corflute signs. Concerned individuals, businesses, local artists and fishing enthusiasts have also made welcome donations.
We have researched issues, prepared a comprehensive discussion paper, been invited to speak to councillors, and radio including 774 and ABC Gippsland. We have been the subject of a Monash University environment and society case study and a campaign documentary prepared by a media academy.
We hosted academic and stakeholder studies on plausible non-industrialisation options for Western Port. We engaged with Bunyip food bowl producers who could be faced with further ground water salination from Western Port dredging and with fishing clubs that would only be able to access around 25 per cent of the Western Port as safe, high tide fishable water.
We know that our actions have had considerable impact on the container port debate. We know we have had an impact on our community, councillors and decision makers in Government and the opposition. We know we have a substantial social media following. We were also invited to make an appearance at a Government port inquiry.
It is a testament to our local community that a group of passionate locals can join together and contribute thousands of hours to protecting our economy, jobs and environment.
We believe our environment is our economy and we need to protect both. We now await the Infrastructure Victoria recommendations and remain vigilant on opportunists and vested interests seeking to industrialise Western Port.
The council now has an important role to play in ensuring their advocacy supports the efforts and concerns of the community as well as our submission lodged to Infrastructure Victoria to protect our economy, jobs and environment.
Jeff Nottle is president of the Preserve Western Port Action Group.