News - 26 March 2015

Big Kimberley park a positive for the State

Big Kimberley park a positive for the State

The creation of Australia’s biggest national park in the Kimberley is an important step in the preservation of the unique natural wonders of this extraordinary part of the world.

West Australians should welcome the setting aside of a substantial and spectacular area of wilderness in a major new conservation reserve. The Mitchell Plateau and Mitchell Falls will be the focal points of the Kimberley National Park but the reserve will stretch over 20,000sqkm north of Derby.

It has taken detailed negotiations between the State Government and two of the world’s biggest resources companies for the park plan to take shape. Rio Tinto and Alcoa should be commended for their agreement to relinquish mineral leases over 175,000 ha of the park area.

All this is inarguably a good outcome for conservation. But Premier Barnett does have a deficit of goodwill with environmental campaigners in the Kimberley and this may be seen as a step towards making up for some of the ground lost in the battle for James Price Point.   The Premier’s single-minded bid to develop land north of Broome for a gas processing hub created a huge backlash and division in local communities. 

Despite the obvious merits of the James Price Point project in terms of job creation and economic development, there was much resentment about the environmental effects of a big industrial estate on the unspoilt Kimberley coast.   The decision by Woodside Petroleum and its Browse partners to drop the LNG hub plan in favour of floating technology effectively ended the issue but it will take a long time for the ill will to dissipate