The Western Port Biosphere Foundation advocates for specific issues relevant to the Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve region that have potential to positively or negatively impact the natural environment and long-term sustainability of the area.
Biosphere Reserves include urban, industrial and agricultural areas, as well as conservation reserves. Participation by landowners in Biosphere programs is voluntary. The Biosphere Foundation aligns its portfolio with UNESCO’s World Network Biosphere Programme model, which identifies three zones typically defining human co-existence with the natural environment: Core, Buffer and Transition.
Our advocacy for the Biosphere Reserve mirrors the responsibilities and activities associated with these zones. This table explains this approach to our prioritisation and method for advocacy.
Click here for the full policy document.
Strategic Framework for Western Port
Western Port is an internationally significant UNESCO Biosphere and Ramsar wetland. Further significant characteristics of Western Port include a globally unique Bryozoan reef, a world class blue carbon sequestration environment and a feeding ground for over 20,000 migratory birds. We believe that the development of a Strategic Framework for Western Port by the State Government (DEECA) is a top priority if we are to assure the future of biodiversity and the Reserve ecosystems that support it.
A thriving environment is fundamental to the maintenance and resilience of thriving communities now and into the future. With a clear strategy in place, stakeholders will be able to more confidently develop and implement policies and strategies consistent with community expectations for action on climate and environmental protection, while allowing on-going and sustainable development of community infrastructure and amenities. The Strategic Framework for Western Port is critical to the region’s environment, to climate resilience and economic prosperity and personal wellbeing. The Biosphere Foundation is keen to be an active participant in the development of any future framework. Read more here.
Victorian Renewable Energy Terminal
In January 2024, the Federal Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, released her decision that the proposed Victorian Renewable Energy Terminal (VRET) proposed for Hastings should not proceed. This means the Victorian Government, the Port of Hastings and other key stakeholders must develop an alternative proposal if this project, considered central to the state government’s ambition to achieve 95% renewable energy generation by 2035, is to proceed. The decision by Minister Plibersek (made under the EPBC Act) was based on ‘clearly unacceptable impacts on the ecological character’ of Western Port’s Ramsar wetlands.
In our view, this exemplifies the sort of conflict that can arise in the absence of an overarching Strategic Framework for Western Port – within which an internationally significant Ramsar wetland forms the core of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The Western Port Biosphere Foundation has placed the development of a Strategic Framework for Western Port as a top priority (see detail above). While we strongly support the accelerated transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy to achieve deep cuts in carbon emissions, all renewable energy transition projects must be designed, implemented and regulated to protect Western Port’s critical habitats, flora and fauna, and essential carbon-sequestering mangroves, seagrass meadows and saltmarshes.
The Port of Hastings was selected by the Victorian Government to establish a Victorian Renewable Energy Terminal to support the development of offshore wind farms. The Victorian Minister for Planning had previously confirmed that the project would undergo an Environmental Effects Statement (EES) assessment. Further information on the referral, and the Minister’s decision is available here.
Minister Plibersek’s decision was made under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) and is publicly available on the EPBC portal here, along with the Statement of Reasons.
There is additional information on the Port of Hastings website , which indicates that the Port is currently assessing the decision and considering its options. The regulatory referral documentation submitted by the Port of Hastings indicated that up to 29 hectares of reclamation and up to 92 hectares of dredging in Western Port may have been required to construct the facility.
The Biosphere Foundation will continue to advocate for an overarching Strategic Framework for Western Port and will provide relevant scientific input as required once the Victorian State Government and Port of Hastings decide on their next steps with the wind farm terminal proposal.
Western Port Woodlands
The Western Port Woodlands support flora and fauna of national significance in proximity to internationally significant Western Port. We strongly support the conservation of these remnant woodlands and facilitation of a bio-link through the area known as the Western Port Woodlands along the eastern side of Western Port. We advocate for robust enforcing of regulations and environmental responsibilities, and fulsome and transparent community engagement by sand quarry lease holders in the area.
Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) Project
The Western Port Biosphere Foundation is advised that an Environmental Effects Statement (EES) will be referred later this year for the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) Project. The project involves two proponents: J-Power/Sumitomo Corp JV (JPSC JV) producing hydrogen in the Latrobe Valley and transporting it by gas pipeline to Hastings where Japan Suiso Energy (JSE) will operate liquefaction, shipping and a receiving terminal for export of the hydrogen to Japan.
The Biosphere Foundation advocates that any environmental impact study should assess the total end to end supply chain for all activities of this project. The proposal for a hydrogen export facility in Western Port is in two parts, commercial demonstration (40 000T), and full scale. The EES should address the issues presented by the full-scale production proposal – transport, liquification, storage and shipping (225 000 T H2 pa) which is planned to be in operation by 2030.
The Biosphere Foundation will provide relevant input to any EES process which directly impacts on our Biosphere Reserve. We will participate and provide scientifically supported evidence on issues of community amenity, the safety of hydrogen piping, liquification and storage facility and export shipping which impacts on the Ramsar wetlands and ecology of the Reserve, all of which must be examined under rigorous regulator guidance.
The project’s broader proposal is for carbon increase from the fossil fuel powered hydrogen generation in the Latrobe Valley to be captured by carbon sequestration technologies. It is essential that this is evaluated with transparency and integrity for its net benefit to addressing carbon emissions and their impact on climate change. The Biosphere Foundation’s final position in relation to the HESC Project will be influenced by these findings, notwithstanding our submission on the project’s direct impact on Western Port.
We believe that consideration of this development project should be directed by a Strategic Framework for Western Port.