This is the sequel to our important, long-running article,. Update, Monday 27 September 2010: VCAT Appeal and Be ready on site for action Tuesday 28 Sep
On 21 September 2010, Gillian Collins, who has led the defense of the Pines Bushland and wildlife corridors, against the Frankston Freeway for years now, may have taken her final physical stand on this on the battlefield at Westerfield, where she has been manning a picket-line since Monday 5 July 2010. I doubt, however, that we have heard Gillian's last word on this matter, because as she went down, she was brandishing papers and talking barristers.
[Clarification: Linking Melbourne Authority is the new organisation or name which has replaced SEITA in this section of the Freeway. It's hard to keep up with these name changes.]
Update, Monday 27 September 2010: VCAT Appeal and Be ready on site for action Tuesday 28 Sep
Here is news from the front concerning the threatened destruction of historic Westerfield with construction of Peninsula Link (Frankston Bypass). As reported earlier. on Thursday 23 September 2010 Roads Minister Tim Pallas gave an undertaking that work would be suspended until after a VCAT appeal had been heard.
The AbiGroup and its sub-contractors are apparently not working on the property today, Monday, because they have an agreement with CFMEU to honor their "lock down" week-end.
Gillian Collins says that if the AbiGroup and Linking Melbourne authority do not comply with Minister Pallas' decision to suspend the work until the VCAT appeal has been heard, then we will need to show up in force at Westerfield on Tuesday - tomorrow - to continue to make our case.
So the message is - prepare to come to Westerfield tomorrow early if possible. Check later today on www.savethepines.net. This will have current information. Gillian suggests that if there is to be a picket tomorrow coming to the Westerfield house parking lot and then walking down to the picket line. Hundreds of people have visited the picket over the past months. The community support is very much appreciated.
Contact: Gillian Collins, Pines Protectors Phone: 03-9782-5116 Mobile: 0414 309 960
Source: Julianne Bell, Protectors of Public Land
From Gillian: Update#1, 0815hrs, 23-9-2010
Police informed Gillian and site manager confirmed that no trees will be cut down today. Site fences will be built.
From Gillian: Update , 22-9-2010
It was a long day today - but what a day! About 60 protestors came to our community picket today and stopped the bulldozers. We owe you such a great debt of gratitude. As Shakespeare's Richard V said in a very loose modern translation - you should have been there!
I am in awe of the courage shown by our faithful band, and by the exceptional work and support shown by the two CFMEU organisers who came to help. Thanks to them and some great mediation by the Frankston Police, we have a short reprieve until 7:00am Thursday morning. Between now and then the Pines Protectors under the auspices of the Frankston North Community Group, Inc. will be filing a case with VCAT to stop the contractor until offsets required by the Native Vegetation Framework are secured. We will also continue to work with the CFMEU and the contractor to get more time.
If we can't stop the contractor from continuing, the bush will be destroyed on Thursday. We saw enough raw power in their three PC300 excavators and a bulldozer today to destroy Westerfield's in a day - a terrifying thought. Some of us will still be there trying to stop them on Thursday. We would welcome your companionship and participation as we face this real life terror.
0414 309 960
"Protest co-ordinator Gillian Collins said the group would go to the planning tribunal today to see if there were legal avenues to stop demolition. If the group is successful, the case could become the first test of state legislation put in place last year to stop last-minute legal objections delaying big transport projects. Ms Collins said police had informed the protesters they would be arrested on Thursday morning if they remained. Abigroup spokeswoman Carol Bartley said yesterday work had been put on hold until Thursday morning."
Source: Clay Lucas, "Protesters fight to delay Frankston Bypass work," The Age, September 22, 2010.
The Front Line
Gillian Collins, who has led the defense of the Pines Bushland and wildlife corridors, against the Frankston Freeway for years now, may have taken her final physical stand on this today, September 21, 2010, at Westerfield, where she has been manning a picket-line since Monday 5 July 2010F. The freeway is the work of SEITA and the Victorian Government, and this encounter was with Abbey Road Construction. I doubt, however, that we have heard Gillian's last word on this matter, because as she went down, she was brandishing papers and talking barristers.
Good for her!
She continued to negotiate firmly right to the end with an Abbey Road Construction team, on behalf of the picketers, and all remained on site, to block the passage of the bulldozers in order to defend the wildlife and the trees.
As the picketers stood their ground against several bulldozers, whilst awaiting the arrival of the police, other construction workers began to chainsaw trees at the other end of the property, where the picket-line had its marquee.
Ceci Cairns painting one final beautiful record of tragically destroyed beauty
(My apologies at not getting a picture of the painting which could be reproduced on its own. It is a lovely painting and should become valuable as a unique aesthetic record as well.)
An artist working there, Ceci Cairnes, who had been painting the trees and the tent, was alarmed to see the chainsaws arrive. "No-one even spoke to me. Not even to tell me to be careful. They just began sawing down trees."
When I left only a few trees had been sawed down, here and there, as though the moonscapers didn't want their work to look too obvious right away. Perhaps they intended to finish it at night. A woman carrying one small animal cage - the kind you take a cat to the vet in, followed behind a small group of construction workers, which proceeded towards a large, beautiful dam, surrounded by luxuriant vegetation. As they disappeared among the foliage, I heard their chainsaws start up.
My dog had been waiting for me in the car for a couple of hours, so I was anxious to take him walking. I consoled myself with the idea that there were still some areas between here and the Pines Reserve where we could walk off-leash for a kilometer or two without putting wildlife in danger. Heading for the area between Skye Road and the Pines, that runs parallel with McClelland Drive, I passed scenes of complete devastation. Next door to and opposite Peninsular Private Hospital, on the corner of McClelland and Cranbourne Road were moonscaped, with not a tree standing, but mounds of massacred vegetation with broken trunks and branches poking out, and hills of bare, drying earth. You could almost hear the silent screams - or perhaps they were my own - as the earth and the creatures in it died and released the carbon they had stored in their living bodies.
There was industrial mowing along McClelland Drive. Bulldozer-like machines with long metal arms with lawnmowers on the end mowed the roadside vegetation on the left as they drove down the road. This was the first time I had seen such machines. I marvelled at their number, at the embodied energy in these monsters, and at the trouble engineers take to remove every last scrap of life from their projects.
No-where to walk left
When I got to Skye Road, I reeled in horror, because the bushland on both sides was also now reduced to mute and damaged carcasses, bulldozed up to form a dark wall on the horizon. I saw that the actual tree-lined-track beside walled new suburbs that I usually took from Skye Road to the Pines had been spared, although everything between it and McClelland Drive had been blasted. Determined to console myself with this last remaining bit of green, I drove the car up to it and parked. My dog got out of the car eagerly, looking forward to running finally.
All part of "the plan"?
Alas, our way was barred. A grotesquely cheery blue sign announced on behalf of the Victorian Government that this was "all part of the plan!" Maybe body-snatchers have invaded our leaders in Victoria. That would explain their alien plans for the rest of us.
Infuriated, I drove on to a road that leads to the golf course on McClelland Drive. Word was that they had done a deal with SEITA to have their course saved when parts of the adjacent Pines Wildlife reserve had been sacrificed. I thought that I should be able to get into the reserve with my dog, via the golf-course. I realised I would have to keep my dog on a leash, but it would be better than nothing.
Locust-like swathe cuts Pines Reserve
The entrance gates to the Pines Reserve adjacent to the golf course were covered in signs telling the public to keep out, but the gates were wide open, and Nubi and I had had enough. We walked through the gates, heading for the sand-hills in the distance. Alas, to the left and to the right were more scenes of devastation. The bulldozers had already been through here too, leaving only a few self-important little men in florescent parkas walking about with mobile phones a few hundred meters away.
Log-truck load in Frankston Pines
My gaze was arrested by a truck bed stacked with enormous logs. I had not thought that there were such large trees left in this area. For a moment I thought this must be part of an exhibit I had seen in the outdoor exhibition at the McClelland Gallery, but these logs were much larger. I wondered what would happen to them.
At last I realised the extent of the Frankston Freeway: it was going to trash most of the bushland I had come to love in the 20 years since I moved into an old house here - no, not some new development. Below is my google-earth grab of what it looks like to me.
The Victorian Government is at War with Nature
The Victorian Government is at war with nature and the people who defend nature. It has been shown to flout its own laws on fauna protection. It presses the interest of property developers and passes laws to promote property development in the name of economic growth which it prioritises over all other things. It forces population growth on the people of Victoria and thus creates new pressures daily for our natural environment. We are not able to affect our government democratically on these issues because the opposition holds similar values to the government. The Victorian Greens won't criticise population growth or property development as priorities, only trying to minimise a harm which must eventually overwhelm all attempts to compensate for it or otherwise attenuate the damages it causes to our natural surroundings and the fauna which depend on them.
The Victorian government licenses agents, such as Abbey Road Constructions, to carry out its will and expects the police to back up such corporate activities in the field. It thereby forcibly exerts its will against democratic objection.
How should Citizens react to forcibly carried out undemocratic actions which they hate?
Most of us cannot afford to access the formal legal system and there are few laws to defend the environment and fauna and flora which the public can actually make a complaint under. Usually those laws require another party - often a State Government agent or an NGO in receipt of government funding - to act on behalf of the public and bring a complaint, and this so rarely happens.
In the absence of legal resources, for whatever reason - either by lack of money or lack of good laws, how should citizens react to force? They cannot afford to initiate force because the state holds the power and the means of savage repression. Citizens do, however, have the moral right to resist the state or its agents and contractors where they forcibly act against democratic objection and the spirit of laws to defend environmental and ecological values, for all kinds of reasons.
The importance of picket lines
The use of picket-lines represents a reasonable and defensible response where citizens use their bodies to resist the impacts of unreasonable government policies, whether carried out by a contractor or directly by government employees, in the opinion of this author.
Gillian Collins and others on the Westerfield Picket line took a courageous and necessary step in the battle of Victorians to defend their right to protect and conserve their natural surroundings and the right of indigenous fauna to live in peace. They have not won this battle, but the war is still on and there must be more battles.