It is sobering to think that 4 years ago the Liberal Government was spending $110 million on preparation and testing for the establishment of a massive container port in beautiful Westernport in Victoria. The jack up barges were out on the water; the seismic testing was being completed and the locals were being spruiked of the “benefits” of this giant port.
Preserve Westernport Action Group, based on Phillip Island and surrounds. And similar groups around the Bay were having none of it. The proposed port in Hastings was to be a 5km long concrete monster. It required 24 million cubic metres of sea bed dredging.
This is a fragile, delicately balanced marine environment. Not an industrial shipping hub!
Our group lobbied, rallied, held stalls, workshops. We made noise when few others were prepared to join in.
Just when we thought we had nowhere else to turn to, Sea Shepherd joined in to help fight for the marine life that inhabits the magnificent waters of Westernport.
On 25 October 2014, our committee held another public event. This event was entitled "The Port that makes no sense or cents". Key speakers included international logistics expert Dr Hermanie Parsons of Victoria University. Also, Haans Siver of Sea Shepherd and other Sea Shepherd crew members attended and spoke to the audience. It was estimated that around 150 people attended including the local media.
The event was a game changer for many in the community who then realised the port was a serious issue for the local marine life and economy. We received extensive media coverage and the presence of Sea Shepherd was well noted and there was now considerable support against the port.
Picking up on the community sentiment a sitting Bass Coast Councillor (who had attended our public events) stood as an independent candidate in the 2014 State election. In that election 20% of voters voted for candidates that were clearly against the port and the seat was finally won on a very slim margin.
"Infrastructure Victoria" had completed their report to the Victorian government recommending that Westernport was NOT the place to put a giant container port. They had reached that conclusion as a result of many submissions including the one from Preserve Westernport.
“It has only been a few weeks since Infrastructure Victoria have made their recommendation to the Victorian Government to NOT consider Westernport for this development, but the total elation felt will never go away. Thank you, Sea Shepherd, for your support. It’s a win for us and a win for the magnificent wildlife,” Kate Whittaker, Preserve Westernport Action Group