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Today saw a significant step towards protecting the Kimberley from inappropriate development threatening the area's precious biodiversity, reports James Norman of our Northern Australia program.
WA Supreme Court Judge Kenneth Martin ruled today to grant an urgent injunction to stop all work at James Price Point until a final ruling is made on the legality of Woodside's permits. This follows the revelation that Woodside’s clearing works in 2011 were carried out without the appropriate permits.
The Supreme Court order issued today prevents Woodside from conducting drilling activities and working in sensitive beach and dune areas around James Price Point
The civil case in the WA Supreme Court was launched last week by the WA Environmental Defender's Office (EDO) on behalf of Goolarabooloo man Richard Hunter – a Traditional Owner of the James Price Point site. The EDO argue that the State Development Assessment Panel who approved these permits did so before receiving vital information and reports from the Broome Shire.
Also of great concern is Woodside’s current near shore drilling operations. These drilling operations are being carried out in what could be the nationally listed dinosaur trackways area. Woodside has produced maps as part of there approvals process which show a boundary that is under question by ACF, local environment groups, alongside local and national palaeontologists. This boundary is recognised as the lowest astronomical tide taken as an average over five years, this work to date has not been done and the boundary has never been mapped on the ground.
All this is happening in one of the world’s most untouched and iconic regions – Australia’s beautiful Kimberley, which stretches all the way from Broome, north up around the Buccaneer Archipelago, and east as far as the NT border.
The area was won National Heritage Protection last August, an achievement of international significance that Tony Burke, Federal Minister for Environment, now considers one of the proudest moments of his political career.
The once peaceful and idyllic township of Broome has turned into something of a war zone in recent months as tensions come to a head surrounding a proposed liquefied natural gas development. The development would turn the red sands of the Dampier Peninsula into the Dubai of the south and Broome itself into a fly-in fly-out mining mecca.
In what may well come to be the defining environmental protest movement of this generation – just as the Franklin was in the 80’s – people all over the country are raising their voices against the possible destruction of one of Australia’s last relatively untouched natural wonderlands.
All this is happening in one of the world’s most untouched and iconic regions – Australia’s beautiful Kimberley, which stretches all the way from Broome, north up around the Buccaneer Archipelago, and east as far as the NT border
Over the past weeks, the WA Premier Colin Barnett has sent hundreds of police to the once placid town to protect the interests of the mining company Woodside, and ensure they can carry out their work without interference from peaceful protesters. One protest camp has been dismantled and another, set up by old families of Broome, remains in a state of tenuous resistance.
Is this the way we conduct business in Australia in 2012?
The WA Premier has effectively sent his own army to Broome at a cost of over $1 million to Australian tax payers in order to protect the interests of one of our largest mining companies.
The scale of the proposed development is immense – $30 billion, 3,000 hectares of industrial land to be put aside, a 6km long breakwater, and greenhouse gas pollution that is likely to double existing West Australian pollution and add five per cent to Australia's greenhouse pollution levels.
The coastline in question is also dotted with the world’s longest chain of dinosaur footprints that would be broken by the proposed development. The fossilised footprints of 15 different dinosaur species run for 80 kilometers along the Kimberley coast around Broome. According to University of Queensland paleontologist Steve Salisbury, who has surveyed the coastline, the dinosaur trail would inevitably be destroyed.
We fear that the proposed gas hub at James Price Point will be the thin edge of the wedge for further development that will threaten the recognised environmental values of the region. What's being proposed would be Australia's largest gas refinery, and it would also be the foot in the door for the wider industrialisation of the Kimberley.
Besides the proposed gas hub at James Price Point, mines as diverse as coal, oil, bauxite and uranium are all on the drawing board, posing a major threat to the Kimberley. The Kimberley is one of the world's last great wilderness areas, but it's currently covered in more than 700 mining tenements.
We have argued, along with many other environment groups, Broome residents, the Deputy Mayor of Broome Ann Poelina, leading Australian Businessman Geoff Cousins and many others – not that the gas extraction at Browse Basin should be shelved but that the gas should instead be piped to a more appropriate location such as the already industrialised Pilbara region.
ACF believes that some places are too precious to lose – and the Kimberley certainly ranks as one of those places. Woodside has lost its social license to continue to operate in Kimberley and must now look elsewhere for better options.