THE state government today ruled out a proposal to establish a gas import terminal at Crib Point in Western Port and construct a pipeline from the terminal to Pakenham.
Minister for Planning Richard Wynne concluded marine discharges from the proposed AGL and APA project would have unacceptable effects on the environment in Western Port, which is listed as a Ramsar wetland of international significance, the government said.
The decision has been welcomed by Phillip Island Conservation Society president, Jeff Nottle.
“This is excellent news for Phillip Island’s economy, environment, eco-tourism income and local jobs,” he said.
“Our economy is dependent on a healthy environment. AGL’s plan would have ruined the reputation of Western Port Bay, costing the local tourism industry tens of millions of dollars in lost visitor expenditure.”
French Island Community Association secretary Linda Bowden said: “French Islanders have consistently opposed this project since its announcement and today we are very relieved that the Minister has listened to the overwhelming community outcry and will act to protect the fragile ecology of the bay for the wildlife it supports, the community that loves it and the sustainable businesses that rely on its health.”
The state government said the decision was based on an Environment Effects Statement (EES) produced by AGL and APA Group, around 6000 public submissions and a report into the findings of the statement by an independent Inquiry and Advisory Committee (IAC).
In October 2018, the Minister decided an EES was required for the proposal due to its potential for significant environmental effects, particularly on biodiversity – as well as social, amenity, heritage and other values.
The Minister also appointed the IAC to review the EES and consider submissions. A public hearing on the proposal was held by the IAC over ten weeks from October to December 2020.
The IAC submitted its report to the Minister in late February 2021, in accordance with its terms of reference.
The Minister has provided copies of his assessment to Victorian decision-makers, including the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, EPA and Aboriginal Victoria. Under the Environment Effects Act, those decision-makers must consider the Minister’s assessment before making decisions about the approvals in their jurisdictions.
The Minister also provided his assessment to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, in accordance with an agreement between the Australian and Victorian Governments under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
A report of the EES assessment is available at planning.vic.gov.au/environment-assessment.
“This has been an exhaustive, open and transparent process and this is the right outcome for the local community, the environment and Victoria as a whole,” Minister Wynne said.
“It’s very clear to me that this project would cause unacceptable impacts on the Western Port environment and the Ramsar wetlands – it’s important that these areas are protected.”
AGL posted the following on its website under an article titled, ‘Update on Crib Point project’.
“AGL Energy Limited (AGL) notes the determination by the Victorian Planning Minister in relation to AGL’s proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) import jetty at Crib Point.
“The Minister has determined, having regard to the Inquiry and Advisory Committee’s report and the Environment Effects Statement documentation, that the project will have unacceptable environmental effects.
“AGL is reviewing and considering its position in relation to the Minister’s determination. An update in relation to the impact on the project will be provided once this assessment is complete.
“AGL estimates that total committed or incurred expenditure on the project to date is approximately $130 million, compared with the committed or incurred expenditure of $102 million noted in AGL’s ASX release of 12 June 2018.”