Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has vetoed the Victorian Government’s plan to develop the Victorian Renewable Energy Terminal off the Port of Hastings, citing the project’s “clearly unacceptable” impacts on internationally important wetlands.
Plans to build the Port of Hastings terminal—a cornerstone of the state’s strategy to develop an offshore wind industry—included dredging up to 92ha of wetland and reclaiming 29ha of seabed.
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In her rejection of the plan, Plibersek wrote, “large areas of the [wetland] will be destroyed or substantially modified as a result of direct impacts of the proposed action”.
The environment minister’s decision was slammed by Victorian Premier Jacinta Allen, who said the energy transition should be prioritised over protecting the internationally renowned local wetlands.
“It’s fair to say we are unhappy with the decision, particularly because the federal government has set very strong renewable targets (and) we have very strong renewable energy targets,” Allan said.
“We need to make this transition to provide energy security through renewable sources and offshore wind is a big and important part of that.
“[Climate Change Minister] Chris Bowen recognises this [and] we recognise this in Victoria, which is why there’s been a huge amount of work put in to supporting and developing the offshore wind industry here in Victoria.”
Conservationists backed Plibersek’s decision, however, with the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) saying it highlighted the need for the Victorian Government to better protect Western Port Bay from the effects of risky developments.
“This project risked an internationally protected wetland and bird sanctuary critical for 65% of Victoria’s threatened bird species,” VNPA’s nature campaigner Shannon Hurley said.
“The federal minister had no option other than blocking the proposal because of the threat of enormous environmental damage.
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“While a fast transition from polluting to clean energy sources is necessary to avoid the extreme impacts of climate disruption, it cannot come at the cost of the marine environment.”
“An environmentally responsible offshore renewables sector requires a plan for how marine habitats and Western Port Bay’s precious wetlands will be protected.”