After years of campaigning, the community of Broome, local Indigenous groups, and people from all over Australia and the world breathed a collective sigh of relief when Woodside Petroleum pulled the pin on their destructive gas hub project planned for James Price Point in the Kimberley.
A win of this magnitude doesn’t happen every day. This wasn’t about opposing a mining project for the sake of it, it was about protecting endangered native wildlife, irreplaceable Indigenous culture and the very fabric of the Broome community.
So what was at risk from the development?
Just off James Price Point lies the world’s largest humpback whale nursery – thousands of these majestic mammals make the pilgrimage from Antarctic waters every year to calve in this safe haven. The gas plant would have required constant dredging of the shallow seabed to accommodate the biggest ships on Earth – smack bang in the middle of the whales’ sanctuary.
Other threatened species in the firing line of the development included the snubfin dolphin, dugongs, turtles, northern quolls and the bilby. For now, their short-term future at least is assured.
To the region’s Traditional Owners, James Price Point has been been home and an irreplaceable cultural resource for over 40,000 years. Songlines, an ancient storytelling practice and part of Aboriginal identity, were set to be destroyed by the gas plant. To do this to remove a critical part of Indigenous culture forever.
Dinosaur footprints dot the coastline along the Kimberley and James Price Point possesses the best kept and largest variety of these unbelievable rock impressions. This window into a prehistoric past is widely recognised as the most well-preserved paleontological site of dinosaur footprints in the entire world.
This historic outcome was a testament to people power. It showed that communities are capable of stopping inappropriate developments, even when those developments are worth $45 billion, lead by some of the most powerful companies in the world, and backed by governments.
A major lesson that Australia can take from all of this is that states cannot be trusted with environmental assessments. Premier Barnett and the Western Australian Government acted as both the gas hub’s main proponent and it’s primary environmental assessor. This inherent conflict of interest is simply unworkable and the Federal Government must be involved to provide some rigour to the process. We continue to call on Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, to rule against this destructive project once and for all.
We’re currently awaiting an outcome after challenging the environmental approval process of the James Price Point development which has the potential to set an extremely important precedent for all future environmental approvals in Western Australia.
While Woodside's announcement is a huge step in the right direction, we’ll still be keeping a close on their future moves. We’ll continue to work with local people to ensure that the Kimberley’s extraordinary natural beauty and cultural heritage is protected forever.
For now, we'd like to thank the tens of thousands of people who have joined this movement, and worked tirelessly on this campaign for many years. Whether you signed a petition, donated to one of our appeals, or put your body in front of bulldozers in Broome - this victory belongs to you.