Decision on Australia's Point Lillias
Note: The following is a replica of the media release of 14 March 1997 issued by the Australian Minister for the Environment concerning the proposed construction of a chemical storage facility at Point Lillias, within the Port Phillip Bay and Bellarine Peninsula Ramsar site, and the Cabinet's recent decision. The Bureau expects formal notification with full details from the Minister for the Environment in the near future.
Senator the Hon. Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment
POINT LILLIAS DECISION
The Commonwealth Government has accepted Victoria's argument that there is an urgent national interest [note 1] to relocate the Coode Island chemical storage facility to Point Lillias as submitted on 20th October, 1996.
This will require excising 20 hectares at Point Lillias from the 5460 hectare Ramsar-listed Port Phillip Bay (Western Shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula wetlands.
In putting its case for the relocation, Victoria has offered a comprehensive environmental package to compensate [note 2] for the small excision and to ensure there is no risk to the recovery of the endangered Orange-bellied Parrot. It will also provide an additional environmental buffer zone of some 500 hectares near the proposed storage facility.
The package, which was subjected to careful examination by the Commonwealth, will result in a better environmental outcome for the region and result in a substantial increase in the area of the Ramsar-listed site.
In line with this compensation package Victoria will
- provide 240 hectares of additional high quality wetland to the reserve. The boundaries of the Ramsar listing some 17 years ago were somewhat arbitrary. Since then more detailed study has clearly demonstrated that lower value habitat was included at the expense of high value habitat. Point Lillias, a rocky headland, is not high value habitat. The additional 240 hectares will significantly raise the environmental value of the Ramsar-listed area.
- agree to enhancing 120 hectares of important habitat at Snake Island to create additional potential Orange-bellied Parrot habitat. The Snake Island enhancement works and the additional 240 hectares will provide a major benefit to all migratory waterbirds which use the area.
- transfer an additional 500 hectare environmental buffer zone of public lands immediately adjacent to the proposed port and chemical storage facility to be reserved under the Victorian Crown Land (Reserves) Act. The buffer zone aims to develop and maintain enhanced wetland habitat to compensate for the localised impacts of the Point Lillias facility and to enhance and maintain the habitat values of adjoining areas proposed for Ramsar listing.
- provide a new environmental management framework including a Site Environmental Plan, Local Environs Management Plan and a Regional Environment Management Strategy together with funding, and implement the environmental planning and management regime.
A new Community Monitoring Committee will guide and monitor the implementation of the Site and Local Environs Management Plans.
Victoria successfully argued that there were health and safety reasons to relocate the facility out of central Melbourne and that constraints in space would not allow a desired expansion of the current facility to service an economically important expansion of chemical, plastic and rubber industry.
The Victorian Government previously decided that the relocation to Point Lillias should proceed subject to approval on the Ramsar excision and to the Victorian Planning Minister's Risk Assessment Process on safety and environmental issues.
A long period of assessment had identified Point Lillias as the only viable alternative after the previous Labor Government moved to exclude the best option at West Point Wilson, with an endorsement by the previous Prime Minister Mr Keating of the Point Lillias site.
The Howard Government accepts that the relocation will support economic expansion and job creation, provide a better health and safety outcome for the people of Victoria, and bring about improved conservation through the environmental compensation package.
In making this decision the Commonwealth has taken full account of its obligations under the EPIP Act and the AHC Act.
Media contact - Matt Brown 06 277 7640 or 04 19 693 515.
March 14, 1997 26/97
Note 1: The phrase "urgent national interest" refers to Article 2.5 of the Ramsar Convention.
Note 2: Compensation for excision from a Ramsar site refers to Article 4.2 of the Convention.
See the follow-up news release from the Government of Victoria, dated 24 June 1997, announcing the decision not to pursue the Point Lillias proposal.