The unique values of the Western Port region are recognised by Local, State, and Commonwealth governments, all of which support its designation as a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere program.
The Victorian Government has recently declared the proposed Port of Hastings development a “major transport project” under the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act 2009 (MTPF Act).
This brings the project under the global responsibility of the Planning Minister and the approvals process under one umbrella.
The Act does give the ability to create some exemptions under some legislation but generally, the roles of the Environment Minister and Environmental Legislation applies.
The first key process will be setting the ‘Scoping Directions’ that will direct the content of the ‘Impact Management Plan’, which is similar to the Terms of Reference of an Environmental Effects Statement Process.
“The most critical window to influence is the public comment phase on the development of the Scoping Directions for the ‘Impact Management Plans’,” a Western Port Biosphere board member points out. “It seems that there will be little advance warning and only 15 business days to respond.”
Now is the time to develop a comprehensive list of the range of important issues that should be considered in the context of any port expansion. These should not just be focused on environmental sustainability but also include social and economic matters.
Any development of the Port of Hastings development will have long term implications for the region.
Potential impacts will become clearer as the project proposal emerges and is fully revealed.
At a recent meeting of the Board of the Western Port Biosphere, a motion was passed that the foundation write to the Minister for Planning in relation to the approval process of proposed Container Expansion Project at Hastings.
“We now know the framework and we can chose to focus on using this clearer understanding to best influence the process,” a biosphere board member said. “This is a slightly different process, with different language to the normal approvals process.”
The Western Port Biosphere Foundation is committed to work constructively with governments, agencies and the community of the region towards an outcome that is sustainable – ecologically, socially, and economically. The foundation will advocate for robust processes of enquiry, consultation and decision-making based on the best available scientific, social and economic information.
R Gell, Chair, Western Port Biosphere Foundation.