Amy Saunders, Gunditjmara Representative

A Gunditjmara traditional owner says their region is being ‘inundated’ with offshore wind farm requests and proposals on the far south-west coast of Victoria. 

Amy Saunders lives at Portland and says wind farms are the new threat to Country. 

“These wind towers are massive, and they wish to put those out there in the ocean. We’re got large whale populations that come and go past our way. Lots of migratory birds. There’s also our beautiful island off the coast, Deen Maar, the place where our spirits pass through after we go. So, after we’re dead and gone our spirits pass through there. Once we’re buried on land, our heads face that Deen Maar so yeah, in between that and our spirit would be these wind towers that they wish to place out there.”

Ms Saunders who grew up in the area and returned home 20 years ago says while she understands the need for renewable energy, it can’t be to the detriment of country. 

“Our country is covered in wind towers, and now they want to put them out on the water as well. So, we can look out to sea and see them, and then we’ll be able to turn around and look at land and see them.  I think our country’s borne enough of that kind of invasion. We need to make those with the dollars more accountable. Our country has had enough. Gunditjmara mob, I know, from my perspective, have had enough of too much industry and it’d be nice if it just stopped for a little while, so we could gather our thoughts and listen to country. 

(Supplied: DCCEEW)

The Federal Government launched public consultation on the Southern Ocean Wind Farm Zone in July and today is the last day the public can provide feedback on the proposal. 

The proposed offshore wind farm zone starts off Warrnambool in Victoria and stretches to the small town of Port MacDonnell in South Australia. Portland sits in the middle of the proposed zone. 

But it’s not just the offshore wind farms which are concerning Ms Saunders. Since 2018, Portland residents have also been fighting a proposed abalone farm at Dutton Way – a parcel of coastal land which is currently home to ‘a few cows, the odd wallaby and a land based burrowing crayfish’. 

Non-Indigenous company, Yumbah Aquaculture has proposed to build what would be the southern hemisphere’s largest on land abalone farm. 

Ms Saunders says the community is still yet to hear back after a Planning Panels Victoria hearing, held over two weeks in February, heard expert and community testimonies. 

“We’re still waiting. We’re still having sleepless nights waiting for the (Victorian Planning) Minister to make up their mind on what they think should happen. We’re hoping the minister takes the time out to come to our community. To see that night time here in Dutton Way, when it’s a very still night and it’s quiet. You can hear and feel the ocean waves crashing and it’s beautiful. 

If they get the go ahead to build this abalone monstrosity and smother that country up there in concrete and stinky abalone water, we’ll be hearing diesel pumps 24/7, there 24 hours a day, humming through country. Bringing seawater in, pumping effluent out. 

We want them to make the right decision. We know that if they don’t, we’ll just keep fighting and that’s all we can do. It’s not right that someone can muscle into your residential community and build their business where you get nothing from it, where nobody else gets anything from it. It’s just something that they can float on the stock market and make money for their millionaire billionaire buddies.”