Updated: October 02, 2012
Why it's worth saving the Kimberley
Kimberley Community Campaigner, Jaxon Barnes, writes about why he’s never short on motivation when it comes to protecting one of Australia’s most untouched and beautiful wild places.
The Kimberley region of Western Australia spans an area two times that of Victoria and has been rated as having one of the least impacted coastlines in the world, comparable only to those found in Antarctic waters. This region is also recognised as the only part of mainland Australia to have retained all its native fauna species without extinction since European settlement.
But for how much longer? Our very own modern-day Noah’s Ark is facing enormous threats, the greatest of which is our insatiable hunger for fossil fuels. James Price Point – one of the most spectacular stretches of beach in the Kimberley – is staring down the barrel of full-scale industrialisation as a group of mining giants, lead by Woodside, work to make it the site of the world’s second largest gas hub.
The enormity of Woodside’s proposed project is hard to comprehend. As it stands, construction of the gas hub will involve drilling a series of offshore gas mines in waters home to the largest Humpback Whale population in the world. Then, multiple reef systems will be blasted to allow the dredging of a massive sea port. Currently home to turtles, dugongs and the endangered Australian Snubfin dolphin, this underwater world will become a marine ’dead zone’ where the only things moving through the water are gas super-tankers chugging in and out of the port.
Prior to construction, Woodside and its partners will clear an area of Aboriginal land around James Price Point close to 24 times the size of Melbourne’s CBD. The gas plant itself, when in operation, will spew 30 billion litres of contaminated wastewater into the surrounding turquoise waters annually and increase Western Australia’s carbon emissions by 39 million tonnes a year. The pollution will be so significant that this single factory is expected to raise Australia’s national carbon emissions by more than 5%.
One of the most outrageous aspects of all this is that there are economically-viable alternatives for Woodside that would allow them to extract and process the gas in a way that is more environmentally and socially responsible. Piping the gas to existing infrastructure in the Pilbara is an obvious alternative and is the preferred option for most in the joint venture.
In the 1970s Australians said ‘no’ to oil and gas mining on the Great Barrier Reef and went on to establish one of the world’s most famous marine parks. The Reef now contributes $6.9 billion dollars annually to the Australian economy. The Kimberly region holds similar economic potential and there are currently more than 500 Indigenous people working in the Kimberley tourism industry. But this industry will collapse unless we can protect the unique natural and cultural values of the area.
Paddy Roe – a Traditional Custodian and senior Goolarabooloo Law Boss who, in 1987, initiated the Kimberley’s Lurujarri Heritage Trail – once said “some say the land is there for the benefit of the people alone. But how can that be? It is not different from us. Like humans, the wallabies and trees, rocks and water are all made of that same living, vibrating spirit”.
This lack of connection to country puts us in our current predicament, and it seems that – as a nation – we’re yet to fully comprehend that human happiness and survival is dependant on a healthy environment and community.
But it’s not too late to heed this lesson. Woodside’s gas hub project doesn’t yet have environmental approval, and Woodside’s partners are still making their final investment decision. Together with the local Kimberley community, I’m proud to be standing up in opposition to this destructive proposal. This will be a long and arduous battle, but one worth fighting – the outcome will set a strong precedent for future industrialisation throughout the whole band of Northern Australia.
In a world of dwindling beauty, the Kimberley provides solace. The destruction of this precious country would mean not only the loss of magnificent landscapes, precious wildlife and a thriving Aboriginal culture – but a widening of the tear in the ecological and social fabric of our own existence.
This Friday 5 October, CONCERT FOR THE KIMBERLEY will be held in Federation Square in Melbourne featuring John Butler Trio and Clare Bowditch. It's a free, open-air concert to help raise awareness and money for the plight of the Kimberley. Details below.
Find out more about how you can help stand up for the Kimberley, visit Kimberley Campaigner
Come to the concert! Get all the details at www.concertforthekimberley.com.au
Watch our inspiring Kimberley video to get you in the mood, then share it with your friends!
Be on the right side of history, help us fund the concert
For more information, please contact:
The Wilderness Society Inc