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No Place Sacred - Woodside Prepares to Destroy Ancient Burial Sites and Humpback Nursery

February 5, 2013

No Place Sacred - Woodside Prepares to Destroy Ancient Burial Sites and Humpback Nursery

Operation Kimberley Miinimbi Update
By Sea Shepherd Australia

Jeff Hansen, Bob Brown, and Lorna CoxJeff Hansen, Bob Brown, and Lorna Cox
File Photo
The Liberal Premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett, has given Woodside Petroleum the go-ahead to drill and otherwise disturb the sand dune area immediately south of Walmadan (James Price Point) some 60 kilometers north of Broome on the Kimberley Coast. Premier Barnett is actively blocking the sensible alternative of an offshore site for Woodside's huge proposed gas factory. Spokesperson and Goolarabooloo Law Boss Phillip Roe says he and senior law boss Joseph Roe had not been given prior notice of the decision but had learned about it via the media. “Why do we have to hear on the radio that Woodside has been given permission to destroy our country, law and culture? It’s not right. The evidence from our old people and from us about this Country is clear and has just been ignored," Roe said.

Operation Kimberley Miinimbi Leader Bob Brown stated, "I have been to the sand dunes in question a number of times with members of the Goolarabooloo Aboriginal community who not only oppose the onshore option but who are committed to physically oppose works there. They are justified in their opposition. This coast is not only alive with their Songlines (oral history and ongoing connection with country), but it is replete with Aboriginal sites such as middens, tool-making, and burial sites. Some will be disturbed by the proposed exploratory works and face obliteration if the factory and attendant port with breakwater are constructed."

In 2011, Woodside wrote to the WA government asking it to withdraw written advice about the possible existence of significant Aboriginal sites in areas disturbed by its proposed gas hub. Any damage to the sites integral to an important Aboriginal song cycle could leave the resources giant and its directors liable for criminal prosecution under the state's Aboriginal Heritage Act. A government spokesman confirmed that the Barnett government succumbed to Woodside's wishes and withdrew the letters.

The WA Supreme Court has overturned the state government's second attempt at compulsory acquisition of the site and there is a challenge to the $1.5 billion compensation deal negotiated with the Kimberley Land Council.

The action alleged that the government facilitated an abuse of the federal court process in its dealings over James Price Point in that it failed to notify the native title tribunal. Work has been going on at the site without the proper approvals. If you jump in your car without a license and get pulled over, you get stopped and fined. You can’t go and get a license after the fact. So why is Woodside about to continue its destructive work when there is doubt about the future of the project?

"The same Humpback whales that were to be targeted by the Japanese Whaling fleet this year, face a new threat, in the form of a massive gas hub off a place called James Price Point just north of Broome in Western Australia. Woodside petroleum and the Western Australian Barnett Government are leading the push to build the world’s largest gas hub placed right through the middle of the world’s largest humpback whale nursery. If we don’t protect the nursery, the whales will have no place to come back home to, no place to give birth, no place to care for their young", said Jeff Hansen, Director of Sea Shepherd Australia.

In addition to the Western Australian Humpback population that dates back millions of years is a living indigenous culture that goes back over 40,000 years. "If someone wanted to come in and bulldoze your parents grave, your grand parents grave, you would do everything in your power to stop it! It clearly shows that Woodside holds no place sacred and will justify any destruction of culture to keep their share holders happy", says John Butler, Musician.

There is a win here for the whales, for the Goolarabooloo and for the share holders, but in order for this to happen, the WA Government needs to stop blocking the alternative of an off shore site.

Shell has the floating LNG technology, and it’s Shell that can be the hero in all of this. The only one standing in the way of a win for everyone is WA premier Colin Barnett.

Its time for the Premier of Western Australia to do what is right for the people of the Kimberley, for the people of Broome, for the people of Australia, for the great whales and for our children and allow the most sensible, sustainable, and economically sound solution to proceed.

Esteemed Australian Businessman Geoffrey Cousins stated, while onboard the SSS Steve Irwin last year, “Well I love wilderness areas, I think there are very few left in the world and I think that these are the resources that are disappearing all over the world. The oil, the gas, it might last 40 or 50 years and the value is gone from it. Whereas the wilderness areas become more and more and more valuable as there are fewer of them and for governments not to see that is incredibly short sighted. I would say this to Michael Chaney and the board of Woodside, get yourselves out of this hole before it’s too late. This project is just getting more and more and more opposition. The intervention of the Sea Shepherd is just one more powerful example of that. Come out of the bunker, take the blinkers off, open your eyes up and look at the alternatives, you can take the initiative, you don’t have to wait for the government, it is your responsibility not to destroy this wonderful place.” 

The so-called unremarkable Kimberley CoastThe so-called unremarkable Kimberley Coast
File Photo

The Sunday Times article "Broom 'army' ready for war on gas", January 20, 2013The Sunday Times article "Broom 'army' ready for war on gas"
The Sunday Times

Kimberley Miinimbi
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