Protesters block road to controversial gas hub site

'Old Broome' unites against gas hub

Joseph Roe, Goolarabooloo Lawman
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Lawman Joseph Roe

Flip Prior The West Australian June 9, 2011

More than 500 members of prominent Broome families have voiced their disapproval of the State Government's proposed $30 billion gas hub at James Price Point.

Most of the group, which packed into St Mary's College on Wednesday night, signed a petition against the development and a letter to Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, inviting him to come to Broome to hear their concerns.

Musician Alan Pigram, who convened the meeting with fellow residents Anne Poelina and Mitch Torres, said not everyone in Broome had agreed to the project, 60km north of the town.

The letter said "old Broome families" had done the hard work to build the local economy and create a unique multicultural society with "generations of blood, sweat and love".

It said the families felt weakened by the "formal and bureaucratic" processes which meant many people had been unable to express their views on the project.

"We are getting together to say that we say no, and that's it," Mr Pigram said.

"When I look around here tonight, I see the whole community – everybody from families that I grew up and my mother grew up with to people who have probably been here for only a year but call Broome their home.

"We all talk about divide and conquer – well, I'm undividing tonight so we don't get conquered.

"It's very rude to just come into a community and just use a process that seems to be driven towards an outcome whether we like it or not."

Yesterday, protests on the road to James Price Point continued throughout the morning.

The group let Woodside's bulldozer through after police threatened the crowd with move-on orders but have again set up camp around the equipment further up the road.

Former Kimberley Land Council executive director Wayne Bergmann condemned the protestors for their "hooligan tactics" over the week.

A fluctuating number of people has camped at the site since early Tuesday, forming human chains, locking themselves to vehicles and sabotaging vehicles to stop Woodside's workers from getting through.

Mr Bergmann said traditional owners who had last month voted in favour of the development were also being attacked personally, which was "completely rude and disrespectful".

Broome bulldozer protester arrested

A man has been arrested after spending more than 24 hours chained to a bulldozer near Woodside's proposed LNG precinct at James Price Point, north of Broome.

Shane Hughes was issued with a move-on notice while attached to the vehicle and arrested after he was freed. He is likely to be hit with bail conditions preventing him returning to the site.

Specialist police were flown to Broome from Perth this morning and used an angle grinder to cut him free.

Initial attempts to free the man were unsuccessful after a generator failed.

The man's efforts are the latest in a string of endeavours by the group of more than 75 protestors to stall works on the site which have been ongoing since yesterday morning.

Sgt. Terry Van Der Laan said the operation to remove the man was simple.

"It's pretty safe, we've got safety glasses and goggles and we've put a blanket over the person," he said.

Protestors and police camped on the site of the blockade last night and are expected to remain in the position about 15km from James Price Point into tonight.

Broome Shire earthmoving equipment remains on site to clear the road but at this stage cannot make it down the road as two cars have broken down blocking a route to another derelict vehicle further down the track.

The blockade has developed a festival mood with singers, musicians and children joined by protestors and tourists.

Greg Edwards, from Melbourne, said he and his wife had turned up at the site after seeing the protest on the news last night.

It's his first time in the Kimberley.

"I think it's just a wonderful, unreal place, so pristine and obviously there's alternatives," he said.

"It's got to go ahead but it all seems so rash."

He said people in the eastern states needed to be made aware of what was going on.

The protest began early yesterday morning when a small group formed a human chain across the road several kilometres from the highway turnoff to prevent Woodside vehicles getting through.

The convoy had been bound for James Price Point to clear about 25ha of land for a geotechnical sampling program.

A small group of protesters camped overnight at the site where Shaun Hughes has chained himself to heavy equipment to prevent access.

About 60 protesters are at the site, watched over by about five police officers and Woodside security officers.

The group has been told that if they continue to block access they will be issued with move-on notices. People who ignore the notices will be arrested.

Protester Robin Wells, a mother of two who has lived in the Kimberley for 30 years and who camped overnight, said she was concerned about the future of the area.

"This is a place where I go camping and bring my children every year. It's an environmentally extraordinary place that will be damaged beyond repair," Ms Wells said.

"I think a rapid increase in population and an extra 6000 people into town will have a detrimental affect.

"Woodside have been very clever in saying they will monitor and mitigate against adverse effects but I just don't think they will be able to do that."

Protesters block road to controversial gas hub site

ABC News Jun 7, 2011

Protesters have blockaded the road to a controversial gas hub site in Western Australia's Kimberley.

About 25 people gathered on a dirt track north of Broome to stop Woodside contractors from accessing the site at James Price Point.

They set up banners early this morning and one protester called Shaun chained himself to a bulldozer.

He agreed to free himself in exchange for seeing a document giving Woodside permission to clear the land.

Another man has since chained himself to the bulldozer and protester Dave Mann says they are holding their ground.

"We don't want to see them do their business so we're here to make it difficult for them," he said.

Inspector Geoff Stewart says while the police respect the protesters' right to have their say, it is illegal to block traffic.

"Certainly people can't impede the vehicles, even by standing or by vehicles, and we're just negotiating with them to move," he said.

A convoy, including the bulldozer, several cars and a truck, was prevented from accessing the site.

Organiser Will Thomas says even though the police will try to move them on, the protesters will not let the Woodside convoy through today.

The blockades come as the Australian Heritage Council officially recommends 20 million hectares of the West Kimberley be declared a national heritage site.

In its final report to the Government, the Australian Heritage Council has expanded the recommended boundary to include the gas hub site.

The Wilderness Society's Peter Robertson says the new report contradicts the State Government's claims that the area is not significant.

"The Government's proposal pretty much dismissed the significance of the dinosaur footprints, especially in the James Price Point area," he said.

"This report and these recommendations contradict that dismissive appraisal and it will definitely force the federal minister to focus his mind much more clearly on the significance of that coastal environment."

Mr Robertson says the inclusion of the site will create problems for supporters of the development.

"It will certainly make it more difficult for the federal government to approve it and it will also make it more difficult for the joint venture partners like Woodside to argue what they are doing is environmentally responsible," he said.

In a statement, Woodside said the site was preferred over others because the WA Environmental Protection Authority recommended that heritage and environment issues at James Price Point could be managed.

It also said that any sites of heritage value at the precinct will be managed in accordance with the conditions of the environmental and heritage approvals the project requires to proceed.

Kimberley gas hub area to be heritage listed

ABC Rural 7th June 2011

James Price Point
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James Price Point

The Australian Heritage Council has recommended a stretch of West Australian coastline, which is earmarked for a natural gas hub, be heritage listed.
The area comprises 20 million hectares of the west Kimberley and includes the Dampier Peninsula. The listing aims to preserve fossilised dinosaur footprints found in the area.

Dr Steve Salisbury, a palaeontologist with the University of Queensland, says it's one of the largest and most significant stretches of dinosaur footprints in the world.

The footprints are estimated to 130 million years old and there are up to 20 different styles of prints.

"Mining developments, the gas hub (at James Price Point), they can go ahead in areas that are on the National Heritage List," says Dr Salisbury.
"But those developments would have to be conducted and run in a way that didn't adversely affect the heritage value.

"Hopefully, in the worst case scenario if the gas hub goes ahead, that will help mitigate the impact on the tracks and protect them.

"Up until now, this area has been very remote and that remoteness has protected these trackways, but if the gas hub goes ahead at James Price Point, new roads will go in, there'll be a lot of workers up there, a lot more traffic on this coastline.

"And with additional attention there will be a higher risk of vandalism, but with National Heritage Listing, measures can be put in place to properly manage against those sort of things."
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke will make a final decision on the heritage listing on June 30.

The company that will manage the James Price Point facility on behalf of all joint venture owners is Woodside Petroleum.

It says a final investment decision is on the Browse LNG development is one year away.

Woodside says the site was preferred over others because the WA Environmental Protection Authority said that heritage and environment issues at the site could be managed.

It says any sites of heritage value will be managed in accordance with the conditions of the environmental and heritage approvals the project requires to proceed.