By Rowan Forster
Farmers across Cardinia and Casey have notched their biggest win yet against energy heavyweights AGL and APA, swaying the Planning Minister to order an Environmental Effects Statement on the hostile pipeline fiasco facing Pakenham.
The project, set to impact 28 properties on 18.7 kilometres of private land between Pakenham and Crib Point, will now be scrutinised by a rigorous, independent panel.
Minister Richard Wynne made the announcement on Wednesday; several weeks after Bass MP Brian Paynter spoke in parliament, demanding the controversial proposal be put under the microscope.
The EES will investigate the potential environmental, community and cultural ramifications of the project, including the impacts on vegetation, wildlife, marine life and Aboriginal heritage.
It could stall development several years, even if the pipeline passes the process.
“We owe it to the community and the environment to get this right and ensure this proposal is rigorously analysed by the most thorough environmental and cultural assessment tool available in the state,” Mr Wynne said.
“The EES will investigate the proposal’s effects on native vegetation, wildlife and marine life as well as Aboriginal cultural heritage areas.
“While this project has great potential, it’s critical we assess its impacts thoroughly, to protect the community and the environment.”
Max Hobson, a Rythdale farmer and former civil engineer who devised an alternate pipeline route, described it as a significant victory for the community.
“It’s our first big win,” he said.
“It shows that all is not lost, considering it looked like they were going to bulldoze it through with no questions asked.
“This battle is being fought very hard down at Crib Point and by our local farmers, including the Corrigans.”
Mr Hobson said it would throw a spanner in the works for AGL’s timeline.
“They wanted the thing operating by 2020, but the EES won’t start until at least the New Year,” he said.
“That puts them back at least a year already.”
A spokesperson for the Save Westernport Group added: “this is a huge win – It’s the deferral to EES we’ve been waiting for.”
It will follow in the footsteps of the super quarry proposed for Bunyip North, which is also in the midst of an EES.
Labor candidate for Bass, Jordan Crugnale, also praised the decision – highlighting the importance of the area.
“The process this time will be done properly and everyone will be able to have input into the scoping requirements and also via formal submissions,” she said.
“It’s important that we get this right.
“Western Port is special, its health is critical to the survival of the penguins, whales and other marine life and so important to the eco-tourism of Phillip Island and surrounds.”