Freo Makes a [James Price] Point
FREMANTLE may be 1700km from James Price Point but people here are playing a significant role in a campaign to stop mining in the far-northern region.
Fremantle-based Greens senator Scott Ludlam will speak at the free Concert for the Kimberley, being held on the Fremantle Esplanade tomorrow (Sunday, February 24, 2013, 1.30–6.30pm) while Fremantle musician John Butler will sing.
Senator Ludlam says the campaign to stop the point from becoming a gas hub goes far beyond Green politics.
He says the area designated for mining is a spectacular, pristine wilderness and a significant marine breeding ground. Further, it is home to a collection of dinosaur footprints of internal significance and is part of a “living, cultural heritage” that links the land to some of Australia’s earliest human inhabitants.
“Deeply embedded songlines run up and down the peninsula and are still being sung,” he says.
“Cut out some of the land and you sever that line.”
(Songlines are Dreaming “maps”: By singing them in sequence, local indigenous people are able to navigate vast distances.
Senator Ludlam notes James Price Point was excised from a marine park.
“[Industry] got what it wanted, a big chunk cut out.”
He acknowledged indigenous landowners are divided on the project, with some keen to harness the benefits of economic development while others want to protect traditional cultural ties.
“It’s provoked enormous division…[and] set family against family,” he says.
Something worth fighting for
MISSY HIGGINS often calls Broome home when she’s not recording or touring.
So when she heard whispers some years ago a pristine area just 60km to her north was to become a giant gas hub and port she jumped on the protest train.
“Anyone who’s ever spent any time in the Kimberley region knows how special it is and would want to fight for it,” she told the Herald.
While James Price Point, and the waters off it, are important the proposal flags more expansive mining throughout the Kimberley.
“That’s where the money is,” Higgins says. “And that’s why they are so opposed to the idea of any other alternative to building a giant monstrosity of a gas hub on the Kimberley coast.
“Humpback whales calve and migrate in the area where a massive port and jetty is planned.
“It’s still a completely untapped wilderness and home to so many rare and endangered species.”
Premier Colin Barnett’s claims the area is “unremarkable” are at odds with the singer’s personal experience.
“I was just awestruck by its beauty, so raw and wild. I could not for the life of me fathom how anyone could contemplate destroying it forever—or call it unremarkable.”
Keen to see the area protected for future generations, she’s joining the John Butler Trio and Ball Park at the free Concert for the Kimberley tomorrow (Sunday, February 24, 2013).
“The Kimberley region has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth that still remains untouched and I can’t help thinking, if we ruin that, where does it stop? What will the future generations have left?”
Vote 1 Kimberley
CAMPAIGNERS are taking the controversial James Price Point gas hub to the polls, starting with the March 9 state election.
Two weeks out from voting day, musicians John Butler, Missy Higgins and young guns Ball Park will join special guest Bob Brown at the Concert for the Kimberley.
The free event is on the Fremantle Esplanade tomorrow, Sunday, February 24, 1.30–6.30pm.
The future of the Kimberley has become a major issue nationally and will feature “strongly” in this year’s state and federal elections, Wilderness Society WA coordinator Peter Robertson says.
“Australians deserve to know that one of our great wilderness areas is in serious danger of being destroyed forever,” Missy Higgins says.
In late 2012 the Environmental Protection Authority gave the nod for Australia’s largest industrial development on a stretch of pristine WA coastline, 60km north of Broome. Conditions placed on the $30 billion project to protect the environment have been dismissed as “worthless”.
If the gas hub goes ahead James Price Point will be “trashed” says John Butler.
Plans include a “massive harbour and a huge jetty”, which would also be put to other uses.
“It’s the thin edge of the wedge…to industrialise the whole of the Kimberley,” the local muso says.
The Kimberley coast is amongst the top four per cent of the least untouched marine environments in the world, alongside the Arctic and Antarctic oceans.
Its pristine waters are home to the world’s largest humpback whale nursery, dolphins, sea turtles and dugongs.
The region is also a significant indigenous heritage site and home to the longest chain of dinosaur footprints on the planet.
People before miners: Parke
LABOR MP Melissa Parke says Colin Barnett should put the environment and indigenous heritage before big mining interests.
Instead, the WA premier is “rolling out the red carpet for multinational resource companies,” she accuses.
Resource giants BP, Shell, BHP Billiton, Woodside, Mitsui and Mitsubishi have formed a joint venture for the $30 billion project. Their preference is to site the processing plant on a floating platform 200km offshore, which would avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties.
But the premier is pushing for an onshore plant at James Price Point, 60km north of Broome, in what is currently a pristine area bounded by marine parks.
Ms Parke, a former United Nations human rights lawyer, describes the project’s environmental approval process as “highly questionable”.
Four of five Environmental Protection Agency umpires declared conflicts of interest (many had been appointed from the resources sector to the EPA) and pulled out, leaving the decision entirely to EPA chair Paul Vogel.
“I continue to question the WA government’s approach to this project,” Ms Parke says.
Federal environment minister Tony Burke will have the final say on whether the project goes ahead.
Given the Greens’ public divorce from federal Labor, the politics has shifted towards the hub winning approval.
Ms Parke remains hopeful of a different outcome following a, “proper federal environmental consideration process”.
The area is a whale-breeding ground and, having flown over the area last year, Ms Parke says within 20 minutes she saw six whale pods, some with calves, a kilometre offshore.
“This is a site of immense natural significance that must be protected.”