Campaigning against any project certainly has its highs and lows. Mentally and emotionally, the fight to alter the outcome can be a serious roller coaster. There are members of our community who have been fighting against the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project (WVTNP) for well over twelve months, some of us are only new to the fight. I take my hat off to anyone involved in saving our communities.
While everyone if at different stages of this journey, I can only speak from my own experience since mid 2020. I have had days (even weeks) where I have felt helpless, not knowing how to best effect change. Other days, I have felt like progress being made is positive and doors seem to be opening in all the right directions. Thankfully, this has been was one of those weeks where my hope has been renewed. I have had meaningful discussions with Government Ministers, Members of Parliament, the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner, Technical Reference Groups and the WVTNP project team. Most of these discussions have resulted in face-to-face meetings where I have been able to seek specific responses and convey the breadth of community concerns. This has been a real positive step.
The Environmental Effects Statement (EES)
There has been a lot of talk lately about the final route selection ahead of the Environmental Effects Statement (EES) process. The pressure seems to be on to have our concerns heard NOW because once the EES process starts, it will be too late. I’ve heard whispers it is rare a project is ever rejected once the EES process is complete. This has increased community concern that our fight will be over very soon.
Let me tell you now, it is not over yet and it will never be too late to fight!
You may not be aware but the EES process has already started. In fact, it started months ago but there is no need for concern. Very soon, in June this year, a single corridor will be selected for the EES investigation process. This may be from the existing narrow corridors or a broader corridor within the original area of interest. Later in 2021, following rigorous technical investigations and further consultation with stakeholders including community, a final preferred route with the least constraints will be identified.
This does not mean our fight is over, it means the critical stage of our fight is about to commence. Once the EES is completed and released for public comment, the Minister provides an Assessment to the relevant decision-makers. There are also opportunities for community involvement at certain stages of the process. When the Minister is satisfied that the EES is suitable, it is released for public comment for between 20 and 30 business days. During this time, the public can make written submissions.
So now is our opportunity to come together, rally the community and put our best foot forward. Basically it is time everyone gets involved!
How the community stopped AGL’s dirty gas plan for Westernport Bay
If you are feeling like final outcomes have already been decided by the powers to be and the project is forging ahead despite our concerns, have a read of this positive news story by Environment Victoria. Its a great article highlighting key moments from the community-powered campaign to save Westernport Bay from AGL’s dirty gas plan. This is a historic win for our community! Here’s how they did…
Beautiful Westernport Bay is a diverse ecosystem of pristine Ramsar-listed wetlands, seagrasses, beaches and the southernmost mangroves in the world. It’s home to more than 1,300 unique marine species and migratory birds, like the Weedy Sea Dragon and critically endangered Eastern Curlew. Hundreds of thousands of Victorians live, work and holiday along its coast, located 75km south-east of Melbourne.
Despite all this, Australia’s biggest corporate polluter AGL, wanted to build a giant gas import terminal right in the heart of Westernport Bay.
Thousands of people took action: hitting the streets to collect signatures; putting up signs in their community; joining rallies; contacting key decision makers; writing submissions and giving testimonials at the Environment Effects Statement (EES) process; using art and music to convey their love for the Bay; and, powering the campaign with generous donations.
For more than three years, we worked together with local groups like Save Westernport as well as Victorian National Parks Association, Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) and many others, to protect Westernport Bay from AGL’s disastrous plan. In March 2021 we won! The Victorian government rejected AGL’s proposal due to its “unacceptable” environmental impacts.
1. WE DEMONSTRATED FIERCE OPPOSITION
People power was the driving force behind this campaign. Working together with diverse community leaders, we showed how local people can organise, fight back and win against big corporate polluters!
2. WE EXPOSED THE DAMAGE OF AGL’S POLLUTING PLAN
When AGL tried to sneak their polluting proposal under the radar, the community spoke up! We demanded it go through a full EES process, the strictest environmental assessment in Victoria, to comprehensively and transparently assess the project’s risks.
3. WE SHOWED WHY AGL’S PROJECT WAS NOT NEEDED
Victoria can avoid damaging projects like AGL’s altogether – simply by reducing gas demand.
4. WE DEMONSTRATED AGL HAD NO SOCIAL LICENCE
We made sure AGL executives, shareholders and customers knew that AGL had no social licence to build their polluting project.
Read the full article here.
Join the fight
The only way to make a difference is to get involved and we need as many people involved as possible. I totally appreciate this can be very draining at times and I often wish I could sit back hoping someone else is doing something. In these moments I remind myself that its up to all of us, including me so I keep battling away. When I am sitting on my balcony in five years time, looking where the towers were proposed to be, I want to be proud I put in my best effort now to stop them.
So join the fight and let’s make it clear to decision makers we will not accept the current proposal and we are prepared to work with them to effect change.
Source and Image: Environment Victoria