Victoria's water sports playground and a sanctuary for migratory birds is in danger - new research shows that Westernport Bay, recognised globally for its marine and coastal environmental values, is threatened by a port expansion that will dramatically increase the risk of oil spills.
The Victorian Government wants to expand the Port of Hastings in Westernport Bay into an international container port, dramatically increasing shipping traffic from fewer than 100 a year to over 3000. This will considerably heighten the risk of oil spills and the disaster scenarios that come with it, and will require substantial dredging and some land clearing.
Westernport is too precious to lose. Australia’s federal environment minister Greg Hunt needs to act urgently to safeguard the future of the bay.
The Napthine Government’s plans to turn Westernport into a super highway for international container ships will be like turning your suburban neighbourhood street into a freeway.
Westernport is much more than just a shipping channel, it is an enormous wetland, with 270km2 of intertidal mudflats, extensive seagrass meadows, mangroves and saltmarshes.
The bay supports more than 20,000 migratory shorebirds and waterfowl and is a nursery for a number of recreationally important fish species.
Some of these species are already threatened and have been protected under federal and state environmental laws.
New research shows that even moderate oil spills within Westernport Bay can reach local shorelines within minutes and would be almost impossible to stop.
It also shows that a spill within Westernport Bay would hit most high-value conservation areas within less than six hours. That includes Phillip Island Nature Park, which is home to colonies of Little Penguins, and French Island Marine National Park.
We are calling on the Hon Greg Hunt, federal environment minister and sitting member for the electorate of Flinders, to:
• Immediately, before any further work or money is spent on developing an expanded Port of Hastings, commit the federal Coalition Government to conducting a comprehensive and independent assessment of the port expansion using the full force of national environmental laws, such as an independent commission of inquiry.
• Guarantee that any proper assessment should consider environmental impacts, risks, a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis and alternative port locations to Westernport.
• Ensuring a safe and healthy future for Westernport Bay and that it remains a place where we can surf, fish, dive and sail in unpolluted waters.
The Save Westernport Bay petition to The Hon Greg Hunt, Member for Flinders, Victoria was written by Victorian National Parks Association and is in the category Environment at GoPetition.