WHILE celebrations continue over state Planning Minister Richard Wynne’s rejection of AGL’s proposed import gas terminal at Crib Point, those opposed to the plan will feel more secure once the decision is also backed by the federal government.
Mr Wynne’s decision was based on environmental grounds and to be set in motion must now be endorsed by several state departments and the federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley.
“Minister Wynne’s assessment reflects the overwhelming and sustained opposition from a broad alliance of groups including scientists, residents, tourism and fishing businesses, and our clients,” Environmental Justice Australia lawyer Virginia Trescowthick said.
“We congratulate all of those involved for their perseverance and dedication.
“We will be closely monitoring the federal government’s response to Minister Wynne’s announcement to ensure that their decision is consistent with the minister’s assessment and the overwhelming community opposition to the project.”
Immediately after Mr Wynne’s decision was announced, Flinders MP Greg Hunt said it was “welcome news” for the Mornington Peninsula and “thanked” the those involved in the years’ long fight against AGL’s plan.
“Throughout this fight, I have been clearly, absolutely, unequivocally opposed to the AGL gas plant in Westernport,” Mr Hunt, a former environment minister, said.
“Last year I took community concerns directly to Minister Wynne, to express the strong and consistent objection from the local community. This followed multiple letters and correspondence with his office on behalf of my community.”
Mr Hunt then took a swipe at the state government saying AGL’s plan to import gas “was always a solution” to a problem the government had caused with its now-cancelled moratorium on conventional gas exploration”.
Mr Hunt’s did not respond by deadline to two emails from The Times asking if he would be urging the federal government to follow Mr Wynne’s lead and refuse to back AGL’s plan for Crib Point.
Another lawyer from Environmental Justice Australia Nick Witherow said the federal government could not step in and overturn Mr Wynne’s decision.
It would open itself up to an appeal under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act if it did decide to support AGL. It would also have to convince the state government and several of its agencies to go against Mr Wynne’s decision.
“We expect all the state agencies to fall into line [with Mr Wynne’s decision] and expect the federal government will too,” Mr Witherow said.
Ms Trescowthick said the EJA believed the AGL refusal “is only the second time a proposal has been rejected by a minister under the environmental effects statement (EES) legislation”.
“The minister’s reasons for rejection are consistent with the issues we raised … and speak to how inappropriate this proposal was. It should never have progressed to this stage, especially given this is an internationally recognised wetland under the Ramsar Convention.”