Tony Burke snubs James Price Point with Heritage Listing

The Joh Bjelke Petersen days of manipulating heritage listing boundaries has been revisited by the Federal Government who continue to show no respect for Indigenous culture

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke announced that land surrounding James Price Point would be heritage listed but the gas hub on sacred land wasn't included.

'Wilderness Society' national campaign director Lyndon Schneider said the heritage listing would be ineffective in protecting the Kimberley if Woodside's proposed gas hub was going ahead.

-5 Media Articles here - including related Wikileaks Report

Kimberley heritage listing under fire

David Weber ABC News September 01, 2011

There has been swift criticism of the Federal Government's announcement of National Heritage Listing for the west Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke announced on Wednesday more than 19 million hectares of the Kimberley region would be heritage listed.

But environmentalists are unhappy the listing will not stop development in the Kimberley region, in particular, the gas hub proposal for James Price Point, north of Broome, which was left out of the process.

And Premier Colin Barnett says the decision disrespects the people of Western Australia.

Mr Burke says the listing provides protection but does not lock out development.

"What it means is within those boundaries there are particular values that have been identified and if anything is to affect those values, then it's one of the issues I would have to consider in environmental approvals," he said.

He says existing activities will not be affected, but the premier disagrees.

"I'm disappointed that the Commonwealth has used National Heritage to draw a line around an area which is half of the Kimberley and about the size of the state of Victoria," Mr Barnett said.

"That decision will affect every existing and proposed project and activity. And I don't see that that will do much to help preserve, protect and rehabilitate parts of the Kimberley."

Mr Barnett says the announcement shows a lack of respect.

"The people of Western Australia deserve to be respected by the rest of Australia, that's the simple point I make," he said.

"And if you look at the Kimberley, there's been a lot of controversy - very recently, the ban on live cattle exports.

"I think many people - pastoralists, fishermen, pearl producers, tourism operators - might just be thinking, 'well, what else is going to be imposed upon us?'

"Most of them are already protected - adding to them that's fine, they should be scientifically based. But to simply draw a line on a map the size of the state of Victoria and say that's heritage, I don't think is very logical."

Some environment groups have praised the announcement.

Conservation Foundation CEO Don Henry says the listing is fabulous, "but there are some important areas with values that the Heritage Council said there wasn't enough data for yet."

"We'd urge, for example the Dampier Peninsula, the lower Fitzroy and the marine environment, to be further examined and to be considered for additions to the listing that's been announced today."

However, Wilderness Society Kimberley campaigner Glen Klatovsky is disappointed the proposed gas hub for James Price Point north of Broome has been left out.

"Will it prevent one of the biggest industrial developments in Australian history on one of the most pristine coastlines on the planet?" he said.

"Even if the area was in and with the dinosaur footprint there is still that discussion, would there still be the power to say no to a development that's clearly inappropriate for that site?"

Regardless of James Price Point, Mr Klatovsky doubts the Heritage listing will make companies think twice before deciding to invest in the Kimberley.

He says the real test of the National Heritage listing will be if it stops "inappropriate development".

"The Kimberley as a whole and the Dampier Peninsula in particular is one of the world's great environmental and cultural assets and it should be protected," he said.

Minister confirms west Kimberley heritage listing

Courtney Trenwith Sydney Morning Herald August 31, 2011

Almost 20 million hectares of the west Kimberley will be heritage listed, but the area around the James Price Point gas processing hub has been excluded, in a controversial decision confirmed this morning.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said the decision would provide the region with the highest level of protection and recognised "outstanding heritage values" including Aboriginal, historic, aesthetic and natural.

But WA Premier Colin Barnett criticised the broad approach rather than simply listing the specific sites that deserved protection, most of which already were protected by state heritage legislation.

He implored the federal government for not attaching any funding to the announcement and said future use of water sources as well as existing and future development, from tourism ventures and local petrol stations to mining projects, would be affected without any additional protection for the relevant sites.

"This is something new - heritage legislation has not been used in this way before in Australia," Mr Barnett said.

The area to be placed on the National Heritage List includes the Kimberley coast from Cape Leveque in the west to Cambridge Gulf in the east, the Kimberley plateau and country south to the Oscar and Napier Ranges, and the Fitzroy River.

"The west Kimberley belongs on a list of the places which define Australia," Mr Burke said.

"Its unique wildlife, stunning coastlines, spectacular gorges and waterfalls, ancient and ongoing Aboriginal cultural traditions as well as its pastoral and pearling history make this one of the most remarkable places in our nation.

"Following a long and comprehensive assessment by the Australian Heritage Council, which included a lot of feedback from communities and my own consultation with the people who live and work in the region, I have determined that the west Kimberley is a fitting addition to the National Heritage List.

"The west Kimberley is one of the most magnificent parts of the continent and its placement on the National Heritage List will ensure it is protected for future generations."

However, Mr Burke said the listing would not automatically prevent further development in the area, indicating that Woodside's plans to build a $30 billion plant at James Prince Point, near Broome, would not be hindered.

But 130 million-year-old dinosaur footprints north of the site would have to be protected.

"It is important to recognise national heritage listing is about protecting our nation's outstanding heritage values by considering them in any development proposal under national environmental law and the listing itself does not prevent development," Mr Burke said.

"National heritage listing protects heritage values; it is not an automatic lock-up."

But Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA director Nicole Roocke said the "broad brush" approach to the Kimberley would have negative impacts on present, proposed, and future development in the region.

Some prospective projects would have to be reconsidered, she said.

"It will have an impact through an additional bureaucratic layer, it will certainly add costs to projects going ahead, it will certainly add delays and timeframes in getting projects off the ground," she said.

" … additionally it will make it more difficult for companies to get access to finance to enable those projects to occur."

Mr Barnett said the listing also could affect future use of vast water supplies from the Fitzroy River.

"The Fitzroy River is a great water resource an dwhiel it's not imminent, some time in the future - 10-20 years - there might be a need to use that water resource for the Kimberley itself, for food production, maybe even to support development in the Pilbara, maybe even for the south-west of the state," he said.

"Imagine the outcry if the federal government did this to the dams on the East Coast of Australia."

Mr Barnett said the decision was disrespectful of West Australians. The state had spent $63 million establishing national parks and four new marine parks.

"In this state, which is going through an extraordinary period of development, the people of WA deserve to be respected by the rest of Australia," he said.

"And as if this state is not capable of preserving and protecting the Kimberley."

Wilderness Society national campaign director Lyndon Schneider said the heritage listing would be ineffective in protecting the Kimberley if Woodside's proposed gas hub was going ahead.

"Heritage listing for the Kimberley will be meaningless if James Price Point is approved," he said.

"The direct impacts of that development will be significant, but the indirect impacts of this development will be catastrophic for the entire Kimberley and will destroy the social fabric and character of the Broome community.

"Minister Burke will not be remembered for heritage listing the Kimberley if James Price Point proceeds. Rather he'll be remembered as the Minister who handed the Kimberley over to industrialisation."

Mr Schneider said the $50 billion development would occupy a 25 square-kilometre precinct and the port would require a breakwater of up to seven kilometres in length, a span 14-times the size of the Harbour Bridge.

He said dredging would remove 21 tonnes of seabed, creating a 50 square-kilometre marine dead zone.

Further, the plant would pump 30 billion litres of effluent into the sea each year, wipe 120 hectares of remnant rainforest and suck up to eight billion litres of fresh water a year from the already parched landscape.

He pointed out that the Kimberley coast was a nursery for the world's largest population of Humbpack whales and was also home to threatened species including snubfin dolphins, dugongs, saw sharks and sea turtles.

Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Don Harvey congratulated the federal government on the "historic announcement", saying the formal recognition of the importance of the region proved it was too precious to be lost to industrialisation.

"The Kimberley is a region of outstanding natural and cultural significance, with many unique ecosystems, unparalleled beauty, strong Indigenous culture and enduring connections of the Traditional Owners to their land," he said.

But Mr Henry said he urged the federal government to provide additional support for indigenous land management and sustainable development in the area.

He also voiced his concerns about exemption of Woodside's gas hub.

"ACF remains concerned about current proposals to mine coal, bauxite, uranium and iron ore in the region and to process gas on the Kimberley coastline," he said.

Mr Burke said the listing had taken a number of years and involved a complex assessment including consultation with the West Australian Government, the Kimberley Land Council, traditional land owners, the mining industry, pastoralists and other owners and occupiers.

The west Kimberley is the 96th place to the included on the National Heritage List. The listing includes:

  • The coast from the Buccaneer Archipelago to the King George River.
  • The Mitchell Plateau.
  • King George Falls.
  • Geikie Gorge, Windjana Gorge and King Leopold Ranges.
  • Rich biodiversity, including many plants, mammals, reptiles, frogs and invertebrates that are found only in this part of Australia.
  • Remnants of a vast coral reef, similar in scale to the Great Barrier Reef, that existed nearly 400 million years ago.
  • Dinosaur footprints on the west coast of the Dampier Peninsula which are remarkable remnant of past life in the region.
  • Ongoing Aboriginal traditions associated with Wanjina and the Rainbow Serpent and spectacular rock.
  • Sites which tell a more recent history including Jandamarra, the dispute at Noonkanbah Station and the drove to Fossil Downs which became the longest overlanding cattle drive in Australia's history.
  • Evidence of early contact with Indonesia as well as early European exploration of the Australian continent.

Kimberley Heritage Listing

Bergmann withdraws gas hub support

ABC News August 31, 2011

The man who spearheaded Aboriginal negotiations over a controversial gas plant, north of Broome, has withdrawn his support for the project.

In June, Kimberley Land Council director Wayne Bergmann helped traditional owners of the site negotiate a $1.5 billion benefits package with Woodside and the State Government.

But, today, in a surprise about-turn, Mr Bergmann said the plant at James Price Point should not be given the go-ahead.

More than 19 million hectares of the West Kimberley was placed on the national heritage list today but the gas hub site was a notable omission.

The Premier Colin Barnett said it should signal one of the final steps in securing the LNG development.

"I expect now that Woodside, other proponents will have confidence this site will be available," he said.

But, Mr Bergmann says there is an unfinished chapter that rests with the federal Environment Minister.

"The decision that traditional owners made is that development should not happen unless there are plans in place for dealing with the social impacts," he said.

"To date, my understanding is that there are no plans dealing with that so my conclusion from that is that Tony Burke (federal Environment Minister) should not approve this development."

While the actual precinct site has not been included in the heritage listing, the intertidal zone offshore has been in order to protect ancient human and dinosaur footprints up and down the peninsula.

Woodside has released a statement saying it is surprised the intertidal zone has been included but that will not halt its $35 billion Browse project.

In other developments, conservationists say they will continue the fight against the gas hub development.

Greens Senator Rachel Seiwert says its exclusion from heritage listing is unfortunate.

"It was essentially excluded from the process, I think that's inappropriate," she said.

Ms Siewert says the decision will not deter protesters from voicing their opposition to the project.

Save The Kimberley's Mark Jones says he is not surprised but the group is confident it does not greenlight the project.

"There's a long way to go in this, a long, long way to go," he said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation says the heritage value of James Price Point needs to be re-examined.


James Price Point - The site of a multibillion dollar gas plant which energy companies
BHP and Chevron say they were forced to choose according to US embassy cables.
(news.com.au - Picture: Rod Harvigsen)

WikiLeaks: Woodside forced deal on Kimberley gas plant

Robert Burton-Bradley news.com.au September 01, 2011

James Price Point, north of Broome in Western Australia is to be the site of a multibillion dollar gas plant which energy companies say they were forced to choose according to US embassy cables. Picture: Rod Harvigsen

MAJOR energy companies involved in a multibillion gas development believed they were forced into accepting the site for a controversial liquefied natural gas plant in the Kimberley, according to US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks.
The controversial $30 billion Browse Basin LNG project is set to be processed at James Price Point in the Kimberley.

The site has been the scene of an ongoing battle between Indigenous land owners and environmentalist on the one side and Woodside and the West Australian and Federal governments on the other. The project is awaiting final approval form the Federal Goverment.

The leaked cable revealed several companies involved in the project were concerned that they would be pushed out of lucrative oil and gas deals by the federal government unless they used the James Price Point site – which was favoured by Woodside.

The cable warned that government pressure was forcing the other partners to either walk away from the project or accept the proposed James Price Point facility.

The leaked cable comes this week as the federal government decided to include the Kimberley on the national heritage list – excluding the James Price Point site, allowing the development of the processing plant.

The cable was sent from the US embassy in Canberra sent on December 11, 2009, and followed a decision by the Minister for Resources Martin Ferguson on December 4, that the Browse Basin LNG project partners Woodside, BHP, BP, Chevron and Shell must develop a plan to produce LNG within 120 days, as a condition for extending for three years their retention leases on gas fields in the project.

Australian Petroleum Producers and Explorers Association (APPEA) Director for Exploration and Access Ranga Parimala told the US, “the decision was an ‘unprecedented interference’ by the government in a project, intended to force Browse partners to choose Woodside's preferred development pathway.”

“In Parimala's view,” the cable continued, “the Browse partners would have no chance to develop a credible alternative in 120 days and would either accept the James Price Point plan or seek to walk away from the project.”

Woodside’s chosen site requires cutting through native vegetation and dredging parts of the sea bed and has attracted serious opposition from locals and environmentalists who argue it will destroy part of the Kimberley area which contains vast tracts of pristine wilderness and a number of threatened species. The other partners favoured a site in the already industrialised Pilbara region near Karratha further to the West.

Chevron's External Affairs Manager for Wheatstone, Mike Edmondson, according to the cables, told the US Consul General in Perth “the decisions reflected Ferguson's long-standing views on "use it or lose it" provisions and Woodside's lobbying to put pressure on its partners,” and said “the decisions are unprecedented and concerning.”

BHP Billiton Vice President for Government Relations Bernie Delaney was also quoted in the cable: “told us that his firm is strongly opposed to the changes in retention leases, which are likely to push companies such as Chevron and BHP to use existing Woodside infrastructure in the Northwest Shelf, and to develop the new James Price Point complex.”

The Cable concluded that, “The clear winner in the initial set of decisions by Ferguson is Woodside, whose reluctant JV partners in two projects will likely be forced to accept Woodside's two preferred development options.

Minister Ferguson's Energy Advisor at the time, Tracy Winters, reportedly said that the government “would not allow companies to build portfolio investments by sitting on Australian resources over a long term” the Cable stated.

“Winters suggested it would be a good thing if some of the most reluctant partners pulled out of contentious and slow-developing deals, as ‘there are plenty of investors ready to fill in their places.’”

Kevin Blatchford from the group Save the Kimberley believes the push for a processing plant at the James Price Point is part of a wider plan to open up the rest of the Kimberley to industrialisation.
“We believe the reason why this site being pushed is from political persuasion to power up further development of the Kimberley area and open the area up to other industry.

“They knew early in the piece there would be significant opposition to placing this anywhere on the coast, especially when have alternatives there’s Karratha down there’s already an LNG plant there that’s approved for that type of development.

“We also know that Martin Ferguson is heavily pushing behind the scenes for this because this will open other resources in the area.

A media spokeswoman for Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said the Government did not comment on “leaked confidential documents.”

Woodside spokeswoman Laura Hammer said the company would only say that their current partners were happy with the project.

"The Browse Joint Venture partners have all agreed to fund the current front-end engineering and design activities for the Browse LNG Development to be in a position for a final investment decision in mid-2012," she said

Vast tracts of West Kimberley heritage listed

ABC News August 31, 2011

The Federal Government has announced that more than 19 million hectares of Western Australia's Kimberley region will be heritage listed.

Environment Minister Tony Burke travelled to Gambanan, three hours north of Broome, to make the announcement to a gathering of traditional owners.

The area listed includes the West Kimberley coast from Cape Leveque to Cambridge Gulf, the Kimberley plateau, the Fitzroy River and land south of the Oscar and Napier ranges.

The Heritage Council had recommended the areas be recognised for their Indigenous and colonial history, natural beauty, and to preserve ancient dinosaur and human footprints.

Mr Burke says the West Kimberley belongs on a list of the places which define Australia.

"Its unique wildlife, stunning coastlines, spectacular gorges and waterfalls, ancient Aboriginal cultural traditions as well as its pastoral and pearling history make this one of the most remarkable places in our nation," he said.

Not on the list is the controversial proposed gas hub 60 kilometres north of Broome, although the area's dinosaur footprints will be protected.

There have been numerous protests and blockades over the proposed LNG precinct at James Price Point, where the oil and gas company Woodside has begun clearing land.

WA Premier Colin Barnett says he is not surprised the gas hub site was not included.

"James Price Point was selected from 43 different sites because it has a minimal impact and certainly didn't affect biodiversity, so I don't think anyone should be surprised by that (not being listed)," he said.

"It was selected because it was the least impact site.

"This has been a very long, scientific process and the settlement of $1.5 billion is, without doubt, the most significant act of self-determination by Aboriginal people in Australian history and I think all of us should respect that."

Environs Kimberley spokeswoman Emma Belfield, who has joined protesters blockading the site, says she is bitterly disappointed.

"This community campaign will keep going, the resolve is just growing by the day, and I have no doubt that we will ultimately prevail," she said.

The listing is supported by Indigenous and conservation groups but pastoralists and miners are concerned it may limit their land use.

Mr Burke says it is not an automatic lock-up and does not prevent development.

But, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy's Nicole Roocke says it will delay projects getting off the ground.

"What it certainly does is it will have an impact through an additional bureaucratic layer, it will certainly add costs to projects going ahead," she said.

The Kimberley, although under-explored, has a diverse range of mineral deposits valued around $360 billion.

Heritage listing of an area does not change land ownership or native title, and existing activities on the land and sea are allowed to continue.

But it does provide protection of the Kimberley's wildlife, coastline and Indigenous heritage and it means that anyone planning to carry out any kind of work that might impact on those values must first get approval from the Federal Government.

There are now 96 places on the national heritage list including Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef, the Sydney Opera House and Fremantle Prison.