Save Cockburn Sound from a Outer Harbour that's not needed

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We are  strongly opposed to the destruction of Cockburn Sound via the proposed Outer Harbour!

This deceptive, underhand and non-independent (of Government process), is exposing the Taxpayers of this State to unnecessary, environmental, industrial, sovereign and economic risks, and it must be stopped now!

With the benefit of hindsight and modern thinking we would never have established heavy industry in such a valuable piece of land. We would also have sited it to the North of the population centre so that pollution was minimised. We didn’t however, so the focus must now be on preventing any more damage.

The Outer Harbour is unnecessary and seeks to duplicate what is already successfully and quite profitably running from Fremantle Port.

Fremantle Port is the historical and major Port in WA. It is currently operating at between 40-50% capacities, and has ample room for expansion. In fact with minimal input it can easily support a City the size of greater Sydney, some twice our current population in fact.

The figures used to justify the development of the Outer Harbour have been carefully selected and handpicked to produce the result that the proponents and the Taskforce want. However it does not stand up to even a cursory glance.

The figures quoted by the proponents are from the Boom period of last Decade, and are very unlikely ever to be repeated. Freight is getting smaller all the time, and technological advances may even render sea containers redundant, as 3D Printing and other manufacturing processes reach maturity. So there is no need to rush into something that isn’t needed for at least 50 Years.

Fremantle Port is the most efficient Port in Australia achieving crane movement rates in the high 30’s, with an average of 36 TEU’s per hour, and it is capable of accommodating the largest ships that visit Australia.

With minimal expansion and proper road/rail designs this Port could become even more efficient, and that is where Government should be looking at improving first. More “bang for buck” can be generated by improving Fremantle Port and its access than the Outer Harbour ever will.

Reasons to reject the Kwinana option;

CULTUAL

The cultural importance of the Sound and surrounding area should not be written off lightly, as it is an area rich in cultural significance to both Aboriginal, and our States history. I feel that the Westport Taskforce has not adequately addressed thee issues and concerns.

Whilst I do not presume to talk for the Elders and custodians of the area, I have, after many discussions, become aware of the high importance attached to the area that is the Beeliar Wetlands and Forrest.

This area is rich in Aboriginal History complete with Song Lines, Sacred Sites, Gravesites and other “secret business” and deserves to be protected just on that basis alone.

Then we add the history since Settlement, and the area contains much archaeology, including gravesites (one is of an infant), remains of a Stable and a Blacksmiths Shop, and also the remains of “Peel’s Cottage”. This area is still being regularly assessed by the WA Museum and further work is needed to ensure that everything is protected.

There are also rumours of the wreck of the Rockingham being located near the proposed site also.

Since 1933 the area has also been the site for a community of Depression era shacks, and the site is classed as B Grade Heritage, with an application for an upgrade to A Class being made in February, when the Heritage Council sits again.

These shacks are one of the last such communities left in WA and as such are an important reminder of our recent past. They should be preserved to retain a tangible link with our past.

SOCIAL

The Social aspects of the Sound, of its beaches, coastline and hinterland cannot be understated and it is a uniting experience for all races, and way of life.

It is a relatively safe body of water for our kids to learn to use watercraft such as kayaks, rubber duckies and canoes, before graduating to boats or wind/kite surfing or other forms of water recreation.

I started my Commercial Maritime experience by learning to handle boats on its enclosed waters as has my children. Whether or not they progress down the commercial path is irrelevant, it is where they learned to read the water and drive craft safely.

School swimming classes are conducted from Challenger Beach as it is a safe beach, and free of rips, surf and undertows. Many generations of children have learned to swim down there, and will continue to do so once this harbour is stopped.

Challenger Beach is also the only Horse Beach South of the River and is used by hundreds of horses daily during Summer.

Wells Park is also proposed to be lost if the Outer Harbour goes ahead.

Motorplex, BMX, Motocross Clubs, plus Fishing Clubs and a Sea rescue Group will all be forced to relocate to remove them from the proposed footprint of the new harbour.

These Groups combined all make up the social aspect of the area and to them it is an integral part of their social lives.

For all of these reasons the area is worth saving!

ENVIRONMENTAL

Back in November 2015, we had a large fish kill event in the Sound, which resulted in the deaths of at least 1,500 prime breeders, during spawning, along with many thousands of other fish.

The Community outrage at the lack of response by Government Agencies, lead to the Cockburn Sound Custodians being formed, and a rally was held at Palm Beach Jetty to show our concern.

I was very proud to be one of the organisers, and main spokesman for the event, and even prouder of all those that stood up for our Sound and its stocks.

Out of the same movement came the Recfishwest Snapper Guardians, in which we crowd funded a stocking program. This continues today and last February we released another batch of fish, at our 3rd Release Event. I am even prouder of this, and judging by the attendance so were a heap of you also. The smiling faces of kids as they released their share of baby snapper would gladden any heart, and it spoke volumes about the future stewardship the next Generation will show.

So, why is the Sound so critical, well let’s hear what WA Fisheries have to say about it first;
“The largest known pink snapper spawning aggregation in the West Coast Bioregion. These long-lived and slow-growing fish are particularly vulnerable to fishing at this time, so are protected to help maintain breeding stocks.”
The largest known, spawning aggregation site in the West Coast Bioregion, that says heaps really, doesn’t it?

What makes it, and Shark Bay so special for the snapper, and to a lesser extent Warnbro Sound also?
Well the answer is that they are sheltered Bay areas, with low energy environments. By this I mean, not much Swell or Current, and suitable sites for the fertilized eggs to settle onto after they are mixed in a vortex of spawning snapper.

This vortex which we have become used to seeing videos of, is a critical part of the process and creates a spiral funnel that mixes the eggs and sperm, and then spreads it out over the seagrass below. Rather like a Tornado in reverse.

Now it is true that snapper gather outside the Sound around 5 Fathom bank to do this also, but being a higher energy environment I have been told the success rate is much lower. Now the Outer Harbour proponents will try and spin this fact to suit themselves, so in anticipation of that, I offer this….

These outside locations are not actually included in the spawning closure, as indicated by the fact that once the West Coast Region reopens for demersal fishing after the 15th December, they are open to fishing. Whereas, the rest of Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds are still closed until 1st February.

This closure was created due to pressure by concerned anglers that the stocks were at risk, not Government, concerned recreational anglers.

We cared then, and we still cared when the fish kill happened, and in fact we also put our hands into our pockets to fund restocking. This then shamed the Government of the day, into funding Snapper Guardians for about 4 Years. This funding runs out next Year I am told.

Now the Sound and our crucial spawning grounds are under a massive threat by the new Outer Harbour. The recreational angling community, that sees ourselves as the custodians and stewards of this environment, has not been given proper consideration and many concerns of ours have been glossed over, or paid mere lip sevice.

In fact, to use a term that our Fisheries Minister, Dave Kelly hates, “Blind Freddy” could see the problems that will come from this port;

Dredging and reclamation work will disturb decades of heavy metals and contaminants, and the resulting increase in suspended silt will massively reduce the light that the Seagrass need to Photosynthesise.

The reef structures in front of the proposed Port will also have to be dredged, goodbye D9, and all that structure.

Goodbye to 3 major identified spawning sites for snapper, and undoing nearly 18 Years of hard work by anglers and Scientists, and wasting all of the restrictions and closed Seasons we have endured in that time.

Ta, ta to Challenger Beach, and to the Henderson cliffs, both great family recreation and fishing spots, as they will be built over as reclaimed land. This is an area of special significance to many West Aussies. 
In fact, forget about access to that whole area if the Port goes ahead.

So what does Recfishwest, our Lobby Group, say about the proposal? 
“If this Port goes ahead, then potentially the only place that snapper will breed in the West Coast Bioregion, is in a lab.” 
That is pretty scary, isn’t it?

This is then added to all of the social upheavals, the loss of a historical Port that was why this State flourished in the first place, and potential job losses from the Fremantle Port, and it just doesn’t make sense. Especially as it isn’t needed for Decades by the best estimates.

The expansion of the buffer zones which is now resulting in Rural and Residential land being zoned “Industrial” thus lowering values dramatically, on some multi-generational properties.

Then the Desalination Plant, one of our MAJOR drinking water assets, will also be affected by the dredging and disturbed silt. This will result in higher costs for treatment, borne by the taxpayers. Yet another cost not yet revealed IMO.

So besides the threat to snapper spawning, crab stocks and Perth’s Water Supply, what else is at risk?

The threat to what is known as Charismatic Mega Fauna.

This is the term used for such iconic creatures such as Whales, Dolphins, Whale Sharks, Turtles and the like. Fauna that the public recognises instantly, and as such it has an emotional pull on you. It is the reason that conservation and anti-fishing groups use them when they argue in favour of Marine Parks and other lock outs.

Now I am not having at crack at these groups here, just pointing out that this is a very successful strategy.

So let’s talk about what lives in The Sound and surrounding waters, and what migrates through there seasonally.

First up, the Fairy Penguins, and who doesn’t love these little cuties?

The breeding colony at Penguin Island, use the waters around the Sound to feed. Dredging will increase turbidity (clarity) of the water and make hunting difficult, if not impossible. Images of dead, and starving Penguins will make for horrible vision on the TV News!

The Penguins were used to help stop the Mangles Bay Marina, yet just a few kilometres North, and still in the same body of water, they have been ignored?

Why have the risks to the Penguins been downplayed by the Taskforce. Their numbers are in decline and GPS tracks show that they feed in and around the footprint of the proposed harbour?

What about Dolphins? 
Flipper and his/her mates also inhabit the Sound to feed, mate, and calf, and everyone loves Dolphins.

They are regularly seen feeding in front of the Shacks at Naval Base, and that area is planned to be reclaimed and covered over by concrete and Bitumen to make the Port. I don’t hear anyone out there saying, “Can’t the Dolphins just swim elsewhere?” because while they can swim elsewhere, this is where that pod lives, and has for generations.

Pinniped’s, Sealion’s and Seals, to you and I. 
There is a colony of sub-adult Male Sealions that live on Carnac Island, and they hunt throughout the Sound and surrounding areas for food. 
These younger Males need this space for their development, both social and physical, as they aren’t yet big enough to fight an Adult “Beach Master” for a harem.

Occasionally a NZ Fur Seal will also make an appearance too, as there is a colony of these at Rottnest.

Both of these wolves of the sea, are also firm favourites with kiddies of all ages for their antics and appearance.

Other seasonal visitors include Humpback and Southern Right Whales. These come into the Sound to rest and recuperate after the long migration from Antarctica, and then again on their way back down again South.

They are such a concern to the developers that they are listed in its environmental plan, but only as far as they will employ marine observers to watch for them…… As to what Westport Taskforce say about them, very little information on the Charismatic Megafauna is available, yet they do know that they are there. Just conveniently left out of the report.

Now let’s not forget about the most charismatic and controversial of them all. One of only 3 fish to be classed as Wildlife, the Great white shark. The one that a mate of mine once described as the “White Elephant with Teeth!”

Regardless of your personal position on these magnificent animals, they are regular visitors into the Sound and the surrounding area, and when the camera was still on the D9 wreck, we often saw footage of 5m+ specimens on it.

They use the Sound as a prime source of food, either preying on fish for the smaller versions (under 3m), and Marine mammals for the larger ones. 
The Sound is a hot spot for them during the snapper spawning season, this is something every angler knows, and at times there can be up to a dozen in that small body of water alone. 
Dredging, and increased noise and activity could threaten that also, and if the snapper leave, so do the sharks.

Whale sharks (2nd of the 3 fish that are classed internationally as Wildlife) and Manta rays are Seasonal visitors to the Sound, and this Year alone there were several mantas there at one time, and up to 2 Whale sharks. As a result, lots of people had their first encounters with these gentle giants down here, not at Exmouth! Not one mention in the report either!

These normally tropical visitors, fly in the face of statements, such as, the Sound is a degraded and polluted waterway.

Let’s not forget the giant Smooth and Grey stingrays that inhabit the area too. Impressive yet gentle creatures.

Turtles, including Green and Loggerheads, often come down to the Sound via the Leeuwin Current, and they also regularly come near the beach at the shacks too. Once again, we shared plenty of footage of these visitors last Season, and some as recently as May. No mention by Westport either.

Back in 2006, the EPA rejected all 4 proposals for the Outer Harbour, stating that, “There was too high an environmental risk”. 
So it isn’t just me saying all this!

As you can see, contrary to what the proponents, and Government, would have you believe, the Sound is a very productive and critical environment for more than just fish.

Why was Roe 8 worth saving, yet the Sound is fine to be destroyed?

Which brings me to the extra roads that will be required to establish the Outer Harbour in Kwinana. Rowley, Anketell and Armadale Roads all will need major widening, clearing and roadworks to bring them up to the standard necessary. Much more destruction to Bush Forever sites and Carnaby Habitat. These roads are shown in the Westport report.

To add insult to injury, the proposed Special Economic Zone by the KIC and Western Trade Coast also want to set its own Environmental Regulations, and that has negative implications for the Sound and its health. Part of this is they want to discharge more untreated water into the Ocean, which cannot be allowed to happen.

HERITAGE

The Heritage values of Cockburn Sound are undoubted.

The area has a long history of Aboriginal settlement, hunting and occupation, stretching back thousands of Years to the Dreamtime. This is not disputed, but more work is necessary to preserve and document such sites.

Cockburn Sound and Garden Island is also where the story of White Settlement begins. This is the spot our State was first settled.

Before Mrs Dance cut down her tree, for Governor Stirling, at what is now Barrack Street, there was already much activity down around Cockburn Sound and Garden Island.

The area behind the Naval Base Shacks and around Mt Brown is rich in archaeological artefacts and sites of great cultural significance for all cultures and must be preserved.

ECONOMIC

The economics of the proposed port do not survive even a cursory glance, so I will treat it as such also.

First and most critical point is that there is no Business Case/Plan in existence. Not one! Neither has the Westport Taskforce produced one. So we are planning for something that we don’t even know if it is viable yet? Kind of cart before horse in my opinion.

No financials at all, just pie in the sky figures plucked from the ether or some dark orifice.

Even the 5 volumes put out by the proponent, Western Harbours Alliance, state at the end, and I quote, “No verification of the information has been carried out…. And (Infranomics) has not audited and does not provide assurance as to the quality or completeness of the information supplied.” And that is the basis for massive environmental destruction, potentially catastrophic economic risks, and loss of jobs.

Talk of a planned cap on containers through Fremantle to make the Outer Harbour more economical just proves that the project cannot stand on its own feet.

This measure is anti-competitive and will end up costing every taxpayer plenty for no benefit at all. The ACCC would have a fair bit to say about such plans, as I am sure as it is anti-competitive and possibly illegal.

Automation (World Wide) is slower and less efficient (eg Los Angeles 28TEU/Hr automated) than what Fremantle Port already achieves (36TEU/Hr) and it is the most efficient port in Australia as a result.

Any changes will slow things down and introduce artificial bottlenecks, and thus increase costs and waiting times.

POLITICAL

The ghost of WA Inc is upon us.

This has so many parallels with 1988 and the previous Labor Government that it is like “groundhog day”. Except in this case it isn’t corrupt businessmen, dealing with politicians that think they know business despite never having ran one, but Communist China, and that makes it even worse!

In fact with Brian Burke back on the scene as the Premiers Political Mentor we have gone, “back to the future”. The 30th anniversary of WA Inc and PICL, is marked by this Government trying to do it all over again in 2018/2019…

The lack of transparency as to who are the financial backers of this proposal leaves many with the fear that we are being sold out to China as part of One Belt, One Road.

No Western Government in their right mind would allow a Chinese owned Port to be built opposite to our premier Naval Base, and right next door to where our Submarines and warships are serviced, including those of our Allies. 
So where is the missing link within WA Labor? How much Chinese Political interference is involved in this? Royal Commission now!

The proposals to build the Outer harbour all lack any form of business case or plan, and certainly no financials. That rings massive alarm bells for all West Australians.

There is also no cost to benefit analysis done to move Fremantle Port, nor to open an additional harbour. So this makes it purely political process not business driven and that hasn’t worked out that well in the past either

Nor is there a client that “requires” the construction of a new port! No one has said they need it! 
Which brings us right back to China!

SECURITY

The National Security implications from both a Chinese Owned and operated Port, and the proposed Freeport/Special Economic Zone sends shudders down my spine.

They want this location as it is directly opposite our Major Naval Base and assets, but also right next to where our Submarines and Warships are serviced and overhauled. An intelligence gathering “wet dream” to be precise.

As a 4th Generation Army Veteran I find it totally abhorrent that we would consider selling our sovereignty to a Communist Country.

This cannot, nor should it ever be, part of the One Belt, One Road strategy.

We are a Western Nation, with a proud history of resistance and warfare, not a Communist vassal or lackey.

This issue alone will make this proposal untenable for you, and make this a one term Government.

Department of Defence and Border Force have not yet publically commented on this proposal but they are in opposition, as is every Veteran in Australia.

This does not pass the pub test at all!

HEALTH

The Sound and surrounds are a major contributor to good mental health and general wellbeing of those that recreate within its area.

The lifestyle benefits cannot be understated.

It’s clean, clear and safe waters provide safe swimming areas for our children to play in the shallows. Any environment that provides a space for children to play outdoors safely should be retained, protected and valued as an important community asset. How else will we fight the obesity epidemic?

With mental health being a major community focus, it is important to remember that areas like Cockburn Sound provide many feel good benefits, and other intangibles that are otherwise hard to measure, but equally as important as many that can be.

The health aspects of harvesting one’s own seafood can also not be understated and all efforts must be made to improve the water and air quality of the area.

INFRASTRUCTURE

There is scant attention paid to the extra infrastructure that will be needed to service the proposed Kwinana Outer Harbour, but it is substantial and will cause great disruption South of Fremantle.

The current distribution centres and intermodal facilities are historically located to service Fremantle Port, and this will all be thrown into disarray with more trucks on the roads for longer, as a result of any changes.

Many local Cities and Shires are now coming out in opposition due to the risk to local business and jobs if it goes ahead. Especially if they cannot compete with a Special Economic Zone as proposed by the KIC and Western Trade Coast.

The rail link between Fremantle and Bunbury needs to be upgraded ASAP.

INDUSTRIAL

As already mentioned, many local jurisdictions are joining the fight against the proposed Outer Harbour and Special Economic Zone as it will have a bad effect on local business and distribution centres.

The ability of the proposed Freeport and SEZ to set and implement its own set of industrial laws and awards should scare every West Australian, and the fact that a State Labor Government is considering it is appalling.

Many Unions oppose the Outer Harbour and SEZ as it will devastate their sectors for little to no benefit to the State. I stand with them, as we need jobs for our future, not an automated port that will make money for a lucky few, but leave the rest relying on Centrelink.

CHAFTA allows Chinese workers into Australia to work on Chinese projects. How many Australian jobs will be taken by sub 400 class visa workers? Based on Chinese Infrastructure Projects Worldwide, it is likely most will be filled by foreign workers.

Patricks, DP World and Toll are all against the proposed Outer Harbour and many of them are only a few Years into 25 Year Business Plans, and any changes would put their investments at risk. That would not be a good look on top of Government attempts to Nationalise the cray industry. Puts the state into the same risk category as places like Zimbabwe, South Africa etc when you do things like that and move the goal posts mid game.

The option of having Kwinana as a duplicate Port is also untenable, as the cost of duplication for the Stevedoring and logistics companies would be restrictive and unnecessary. The risk of mixing up of cargo and incorrect delivery/departure ports could also arise.

ALTERNATIVES

Let Fremantle Port grow organically and naturally to reach its full potential in about 50-100 Years.

Improve the road and rail network, including the new rail bridge at Fremantle as a apriority.

Improve and upgrade the Fremantle to Bunbury rail line and Kwinana spur line

Improve the Cruise Ship facilities and create a Tourist precinct near the Maritime Museum.

Expand Bunbury Port to better service the Region and to provide Regional employment opportunities.

No more industry in Cockburn Sound to be developed, the cumulative risk is too great and the EPA agreed with this back in 2006 also.

SUMMARY

In closing, I wish to leave you in no way confused about the level of opposition to this proposed Outer Harbour. Roe 8 was stopped by a few hundred vocal protestors.

The Fish Army alone has many times that number, and the wider recreational fishing community, and the Anti-Outer Harbour Alliance boasts many more times that number, and as more and more people are becoming aware of this proposal, more join us each day. Sheer numbers alone will carry the day.

Then add in the Unions, Community Groups, Aboriginal Traditional Owners, Cities and Shires, Industry Groups and we have the power to change Governments.

The last time the recreational fishing community got angry with a State Labor Government we used the “I Fish, and I Vote, and I care. Wake up Geoff” sticker. That was my slogan, what will I come up with this time?

This issue will be fought to the bitter end and will be potentially more damaging than Roe ever was, mark my words.

This Taskforce has not been independent of Government at all, and is just a paper pushing exercise and a money pit that will produce nothing tangible for the State. It reeks of political interference and the delayed release after sitting on Minister Saffioti’s desk for Months being redrafted to make it less confronting for the public, just confirms it.

There is nothing that can justify the wanton destruction of the Sound and of its inhabitants, the loss of amenity and lifestyle just doesn’t even come close.

There is no option in the Sound that the recreational fishing community will accept, not one!

Stop the Outer Harbour, bury it good and deep, and forget about it for good!



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