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Kimberley and the dinosaur

We gaze in awe at the history of T-Rex and friends in every museum in every capital city across Australia. Yet they have left their footprints in our own backyard. James Norman reports.

Dr Steve Salisbury reckons the dinosaur footprints found along the Kimberley coast represent the largest stretch of dinosaur footprints anywhere in the world.

The University of Queensland paleontologist is worried that if the Kimberley is opened up to mining and development the footprints and their stories could be lost forever.

“The coastline north of Broome, including the area around James Price Point, preserves one of the largest and most significant stretches of dinosaur footprints in the world,” Dr Salisbury said. “Their paleontological significance can’t be overstated.”

The prints occur over an 80km stretch of coastline. All up, there are tracks representing as many as 15 different types of dinosaurs, some of which there is no other record for in Australia. Some of the tracks are up to 1.5m long, and belong to what may have been some of the largest animals to have ever walked the planet.

“This stretch of coastline provides a unique glimpse of an ecosystem that existed over 130 million years ago, with unparalleled information about dinosaur behaviour and locomotion. There simply isn’t anywhere else like it, and it needs to be protected. It’s hard to comprehend how it could have been left off the initial proposed heritage zoning.”

Dr Salisbury is concerned that proposals for large scale industrial and resource development of the region, including a liquefied natural gas processing facility or “hub” at James Price Point on the Dampier Peninsula near Broome, will unlock the Kimberley and open it up to the sort of development already established in the Pilbara and that the dinosaur tracks will be lost in the process.

Hundreds of exploration licenses have already been issued across the Kimberley for resource extraction including uranium, coal, bauxite and intensive irrigation. Many of these proposed extraction sites are in close vicinity of iconic tourist attractions such as Horizontal Falls, the Purnululu (Bungle Bungles) and other areas of cultural significance.

The gas hub, proposed by mining giants Woodside, BP, Chevron, BHP Billiton and Shell, is seen by many as unnecessary, as there are other existing industrial sites where the gas from offshore could be processed.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke is preparing to hand down his ruling on the proposed National Heritage listing for the Kimberley in June.

What can you do to ensure National Heritage listing for the Kimberley? Write to your local MP and request that they ask Minister Burke to list the full range of values of West Kimberley as National Heritage. And join our Facebook page.