Act on Climate went on a West Coast Roadtrip from 17 July to 24 July, hosting events in towns along the coast, specifically Torquay, Apollo Bay, Warrnambool and Portland, to meet with local groups active in the area and interested community members from all walks of life. The aim was to explore the climate impacts these coastal towns are already experiencing and the solutions locals would like to see.
On July 18, we visited Apollo Bay for a Coastal Impacts Community Meetup. We gathered at Marrar Woorn Neighbourhood House in Apollo Bay to talk about local climate impact concerns over tea, crumble and cake. Read a summary of the late afternoon's get-together below...
Members from the Apollo Bay community gathered on a cold Winter’s night to discuss the climate impacts the community is facing and their concerns and hopes for the future.
They first expressed concern they felt they did not have enough information on the climate impacts such as coastal erosion and sea level rise Apollo is and will continue to face. A swimming group is experiencing high sand levels from sand being trapped after the installation of the groynes and surfers noted disappointed at the changes to Mother’s Corner surf break, in addition to the erosion of the dunes being seen.
Groynes and seawalls are seen as temporary short term measures and as simply a holding pattern and the road works as endless.
It was mentioned that, ironically, as a place with high wind, wind farms had been banned in the area.
The fact that the government’s sea level measurement (0.8m) is at least 15 years old and not in line with the current science (at least 1.2m) was noted as worrying, with the feeling being that the government doesn’t want to acknowledge the extent of the problem. It was questioned whether GORCAPA was working on the lower or higher sea level. It was shared that Port Fairy’s council had decided on its own to use the 1.2m level.
There is strong apprehension over bushfires, with people expressing that there is a lot of anxiety in the community over when a big bushfire is going to happen. They want the government to work with the community in ensuring preparedness before the fact rather than help after the fact.
The threat of bushfires has already impacted the community through the installation of the vault limits, which have resulted in poor reliability of power.
Some incredible examples of the community already coming together to create local solutions include the community garden, accommodation refuge at the school, sustainability education at the school, the composting of food waste locally, phone trees for emergencies, and the community battery for local power generation. However, it was noted that there is a struggle getting grants for these projects.
Local community groups doing great work include Colac Otway Shire Climate Action Team, local citizens advocating for urgent action from government, Otway Climate Emergency Action Network (OCEAN), an informed and motivated Otways community taking bold and effective action for climate justice by protecting the coast and country from the threat of unsustainable development, and Southern Otways Sustainable (SOS), which is energising the community of Apollo Bay and Southern Otways on its path to 100% renewables by 2030. The Great Ocean Road Health and CFA planning emergency procedures was thought of as a great exercise, as was Regional Tourism’s disaster planning sessions. And the newly formed Voices of Apollo Bay hopes to amplify issues affecting the community.
Concern was expressed that people might not be aware of how vulnerable we are in Apollo Bay and that people need to know that the government is not on top of it.
It is felt that Apollo Bay is not getting enough attention from the council and there is not enough interaction with the community. It was thought this could be because it is further from Colac, where the shire is, and Torquay, where GORCAPA is, and a larger amount of the electorate in the Western districts is conservative. There is lots of local knowledge to share, but it seems as if it is thought that locals only get in the way. More direct communication and consultation is wanted.
Seismic blasting is another issue that is incredibly troubling to locals. More fossil gas will exacerbate the climate impacts already being experienced and scientific evidence confirms the blasts kill, damage and disturb a huge array of marine creatures including whales and the full extent of the damage done is not known. Also, Schlumberger, the company involved, is currently under criminal investigation for its 2019 Seismic Blasting of the Otway Basin. At a recent OCEAN event, 25 NO votes and 15 proxy votes showed that seismic blasting and gas development are not wanted in the Otway Basin.
The Apollo Bay community wants more direct communication and consultation, the government to be honest about the facts and acknowledge how serious the situation is, the health impacts of the climate crisis to be talked about, a positive vision for the future of the town, council to be educated about emissions reduction (more than planting trees!), a community battery, the younger generation to get involved and the community to come together.
The evening ended with the heartwarming hopeful statement of “We all love Apollo Bay. We just need to translate that love into the environment.”
Thanks to those who made it along to the meetup in Apollo Bay to chat climate concerns! We're grateful to have had the opportunity to connect with folks living in Apollo Bay working on a range of enviro/activist fronts.
Please keep in touch and keep letting us know the calls to action being pushed locally and how we can best amplify the work you're doing.