TWO words may be the deciding factor to hold an environment protection biodiversity conservation (EPBC) assessment into plans to build and ship infrastructure for a Bass Strait wind farm from the Port of Hastings.
The Save Westernport group wants the project classified as a “controlled action” to trigger investigations into the environmental effects of a renewable energy terminal on Long Island.
The group’s secretary Julia Stockigt says acceptance of the term by the federal government would see investigations “necessary to determine whether the potential impacts of dredging and land reclamation on Western Port’s fragile environment can be managed”.
The state government, which allocated $27 million in its 2023/24 budget for the offshore wind turbines to be built in Long Island Drive, Hastings, has said there will be “a thorough environment effects statement (EES) process” before the project progresses (“State says terminal plan to go ahead” The News 12/9/23).
The state government says the terminal – backed by the Port of Hastings Corporation (PoHC) – will be built “for the receival, assembly and installation of offshore wind foundations, towers and turbines as a multi-user facility, with new berths, heavy duty pavements and major supporting infrastructure”.
Stockigt last week said submissions would close on 23 October.
“We’re asking people to please log on and say the project is a ‘controlled action’ because it could significantly impact Western Port’s Ramsar wetlands and endangered species due to the dredging and land reclamation needed to construct the terminal in Western Port for the proposed wind farm in Bass Strait,” she said.
“Under the Commonwealth EPBC Act, if a project has the potential to significantly impact a matter of national environmental significance (MNES), like Ramsar wetlands or endangered species, it must undergo an EPBC assessment,” she said, and urged people to read reports commissioned (and published on its website) by the PoHC “and use the information to draft your submission”.
“If approved, the Western Port terminal will be used to construct the Victorian government’s proposed wind farm in the Bass Strait and maintain it for many years to come.
“We welcome the government’s renewable energy projects, like the offshore wind farm proposal, if it can be shown that the effects … are not too great for Western Port’s fragile environment, and they can be managed according to world’s best practice at every stage.
“If it is shown that the dredging and land reclamation they propose will significantly impact endangered species, or the Ramsar wetlands, then the project must not go ahead.”
The PoHC’s stakeholder and community relations manager Todd Trimble said the terminal “will deliver critical port capacity to meet Victoria’s offshore wind targets…” (“Terminal delay could hit power targets” The News 21/8/23).
“Offshore wind assembly places unique heavy-duty operational requirement on ports, including significant land area adjacent to available berths, pavement strength and channel capacity.”
There was no other port in Australia that could “facilitate offshore wind assembly”.