In September 2017, the State Government established the Westport Taskforce to advise them about the future transport needs of WA and how these needs can be best achieved. In determining WA’s future transport needs the question of whether an outer harbour in Cockburn Sound or Bunbury is needed or whether the current port at Fremantle can continue to meet the states future transport needs will be answered.
Given any port development can be expected to impact on fishing experiences, especially within Cockburn Sound, Recfishwest joined the Westport Taskforce’s Reference Group and also secured a position on its environmental working group.
We have provided the Taskforce with information about recreational fishing, social, economic, recreational and environmental values in Cockburn Sound, Fremantle and Bunbury in order to help guide the Taskforce to make informed recommendations.
Recfishwest have ensured the importance of pink snapper breeding grounds, seagrass nursery meadows, iconic wrecks and a number of other factors that make Cockburn Sound so important for fishing have been acknowledged.
Recfishwest have driven home the important role Cockburn Sound plays in providing great fishing experiences.
The recreational fishing community have long been active stewards in protecting Cockburn Sound whenever possible.
We were a driving force behind the creation of the Cockburn Sound Management Council and have been a foundation member on the council since its inception.
We were pivotal in implementing a spawning closure for pink snapper and we delivered the Snapper Guardians program which saw more than 100,000 pink snapper stocked into the Sound after more than 400 fishers reached into their own pocket to help the cause.
Recfishwest have been advocating on behalf of Cockburn Sound for decades. From Cockburn Cement’s dredging program, the proposed livestock holding facility, James Point, fish kills and a series of port proposals over the years, we have been there defending the Sound to protect the fishing experiences we cherish.
Any decision regarding the State’s future transport requirements must be considerate of social and environmental needs.
Any proposal that reduces fish habitat, fish abundance or restrict people’s right to access our local waters will be strongly opposed.
On 12 December 2018 a report on what the Westport Taskforce has found so far was released for public consultation and this report has identified the following eight options as the best plan for future port developments in Western Australia.
- Current situation – regarded as the base case;
- Optimise Fremantle and transition containers to Kwinana over time, with an option to transition them to Bunbury in the long-term;
- Optimise Fremantle and transition containers to Bunbury over time with no containers in Kwinana;
- Deindustrialise Fremantle and move containers to Kwinana as soon as possible;
- De-industrialise Fremantle and move containers to Bunbury as soon as possible;
- Fremantle and Kwinana both have containers for the long-term;
- Fremantle and Bunbury both have containers for the long-term;
- Only Fremantle has containers for the long-term.
This report highlights Cockburn Sound as a regionally significant spawning and nursery area for pink snapper, King George whiting, garfish and blue swimmer crabs.
The report also confirms Cockburn Sound has the most marine/estuarine environmental and social values of the three proposed locations. In fact, more than 87 per cent of all identified environmental and social values across the three proposed locations are found in Cockburn Sound.
The environment that supports our fishing experiences has always been our number one concern and the reason we committed to the Westport Taskforce process. The latest report clearly demonstrates the environmental risks associated with the development of another port in Cockburn Sound are greater than for any of the other locations.
The report also shows that while there are challenges with developing a port in each of the three proposed locations there are no factors that make it impossible for these developments to occur. As there are more environmentally friendly alternatives to the further development of Cockburn Sound, Recfishwest will not support options that are most likely to impact on our fish, their habitat or our fishing experiences.
Of the eight available options, Recfishwest’s preference is for option three or seven.
- Option three – “Optimise Fremantle and transition containers to Bunbury over time with no containers in Kwinana”; or
- Option seven – “Fremantle and Bunbury both have containers for the long-term”.
Recfishwest will not support any options that further impact on Cockburn Sound fishing experiences.
While the Minister’s foreword in this new report makes reference to an election commitment to plan and build a future Outer Harbour at Kwinana and on 7 November 2018 the Minister also tabled a Bill in parliament likely to limit the available options for developing road infrastructure to support expansion of Fremantle port (Metropolitan Region Scheme [Beeliar Wetlands] Bill 2018) the 8 options presented in the new report are the work of the Westport Taskforce and not the Planning Minister.
While Recfishwest is happy to constructively contribute to finding the best solution to WA’s future transport needs, we need the fishing community to provide feedback during the times of public consultation. This will ensure the Taskforce and the Minister have a good understanding of the community’s expectations.
Although we are actively contributing to positive policy development through this process, we cannot guarantee what the final recommendation of the Westport Taskforce will be. What we can guarantee is that Recfishwest will continue to fight to protect pink snapper and the great fishing provided by Cockburn Sound.