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Issue #1545      2 May 2012

WA anti-gas plant campaign hots up

The campaign to save the pristine coastline of James Price Point, north of Broome, from a $35 billion gas processing plant has gained momentum, with an adviser to the federal government condemning the developer’s social impact assessment (SIA).

A “No Gas” sign atop the cliffs at James Price Point.
(Photo: Jill Swanson, ACF)

Dr Annie Holden peer reviewed the report by company Woodside for the Department of Sustainability, Environmental, Water, Population and Communities and says it fails to adequately address issues relevant to Indigenous people in Broome, in their capacity as community members.

“Indigenous youth, and women and girls, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, in particular appear to have no voice in the SIA,” Dr Holden said in a statement.

Impacts from the flood of fly-in fly-out workers could include increased drug abuse, skyrocketing property prices, transport costs and anti-social behaviour, she said. Former Broome deputy mayor Nik Wevers said the damning review was “hardly surprising”.

“They (Woodside or the state government) wouldn’t hold a public forum, had an inability to consult with a diverse range of stakeholders and had a very poor response to community concerns,” Ms Wevers said.

Recently, the volunteer-run group Save the Kimberley has attracted some high-profile support, including millionaire businessman Geoffrey Cousins and Aboriginal leader Pat Dodson.

They have also been encouraged by the recent decision of the Supreme Court to overturn the West Australian government’s law for compulsory acquisition of Aboriginal land at James Price Point.

In Perth, Yawuru man Pat Dodson criticised the state government’s attitudes to compulsory land acquisition.

“When you deal with the law you’ve got to be exact and you’ve got to be precise, and you’ve got to make sure the technicalities are covered, and I think it was a pretty embarrassing thing for the state in a sense that they didn’t have the definition of the site clearly located or identified,” he said.

In Sydney last week, Mr Cousins told the Koori Mail newspaper he thought the tide was finally turning in favour of opponents of the development.

“The attitudes of the local community have already swung against the development of a processing hub at James Price Point. The court’s decision that the government’s compulsory acquisition is illegal has changed everything,” he said.

Mr Cousins said the company would have to go back and negotiate with the Kimberley Land Council (KLC) all over again. “Hopefully the KLC might now swing in the other direction, so they no longer support the development,” he said.

“Woodside’s preference for processing at James Price Point is very undesirable. We’re not against gas exploration altogether, but the gas has to be piped underwater to the Pilbara for processing.”

Journalist and filmmaker George Negus has also become personally involved and is working with Albert Wiggan, a local traditional owner.

Mr Negus remains concerned “that the whites just don’t get it”.

Mr Wiggan first sailed to Sydney from Broome five years back, and invited Mr Negus, Bob Carr (now Australia’s Foreign Minister), members of the Sydney Aboriginal community and others to hear about his people’s fight to save the Kimberley.

He’s determined to pass on his country to his two sons, in the same condition as when his father passed it to him.

“We as young Indigenous people are trying to represent our country in the manner our ancestors taught us from the old country,” Mr Wiggan said.

“We’re already experiencing a harsh reality just to fit in. Everything is about the choices you make. It’s always about us compromising, never about compromise on the other side.”

Mr Wiggan has taken his father Roy to the site of a gas-processing plant which stretches over large tracks of land in the Pilbara region, to the south. 

“I feel frightened in my heart – how can we let this happen to our traditional country?” he said.

Woodside has applied to the federal government to start another $350 million drilling operation 10 kilometres off the Rowley Shoals Marine Park in the Kimberley.

Koori Mail  


Next article – WA’s top cop wants to lock up kids – most of them Aboriginal

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