Media Releases - 20 July 2019

Kimberley clearing decision to be environmental marker for WA Government

  • Department of Water and Environmental Regulation announced that its Stop Work notice has been appealed by the proponent, Shanghai Zenith
  • Comments made by the Chair of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association WA during an interview with the ABC show a clear neglect of environmental concern for the Kimberley
  • The decision made on this presumed illegal clearing in the Kimberley will be the marker for how the community views the WA Government on land clearing in Western Australia

The comments by the Chair of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association WA, Tony Seabrook, published during an interview with the ABC on the presumed illegal clearing which has occurred in the Kimberley, have shocked the environmental sector.

Acting State Director for the Wilderness Society in Western Australia, Kit Sainsbury, commented: “Listening to the comments made by Mr. Seabrook about the process being undertaken by the WA Government to review the clearing which has occurred at Yakka Munga Station was truly alarming.

“The lease holder, Shanghai Zenith, has cleared a boundary track 24 kilometres long and 50 metres wide—equivalent to sixty times the size of Optus Stadium. On the back of local Indigenous action to alert the government to this presumed illegal clearing, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has issued a Stop Work order whilst three government bodies investigate the clearing.

“This is a fair and proper process for the government to be undertaking. Mr. Seabrook saying he hopes the appeal is successful because "the land clearing's done. It can't be undone” is not a satisfactory way to be assessing the environmental impact of this clearing and whether the company has followed due process.

“He has accused the government of "financially punishing" the leaseholder and "pandering to environmental and Indigenous groups". Such rhetoric is dangerous and totalitarian. If the leaseholder has acted beyond any permit regulations then they should be arrested from continued destruction. To suggest that the government is pandering to groups like ours, along with local Indigenous groups, is pretty insulting to those who have acted to protect the land and the Country they care for in the Kimberley.

“Indicating that the government is in effect "obstructing development in the Kimberley"—despite WA Government Ministers indicating the clearing has occurred "without following proper processes"—is a clear indicator that the PGA have little concern for the conservation management of the Kimberley and the regulations which are in place under the Environment Protection Act. 

“His comments that "the community needs to realise that this country needs development" is at odds with the purpose of the Environment Protection Act and values installed in this to protect the environment from rampant clearing. 

“Should development occur in the Kimberley, then it needs to be done sensibly with the environment being considered at the top of the list. Sustainable development is possible in this area, which provides long-term employment opportunities for the Indigenous community. Irresponsible clearing is not a viable way forward for this area.

“We are advocating for the WA Environment Minister, Stephen Dawson, to issue the harshest penalties under his power should the investigations conclude that the leaseholder acted without permit. Such an action would put the metaphorical marker in the red earth of the Kimberley to indicate to any leaseholders that regulations must be followed and will be punished accordingly if any discretion is noted.

“The WA Government’s actions on this matter will resonate across the community to show how it views land clearing in our state. To not provide a strong, punitive ruling at the end of this process will leave it open to scrutiny and potentially open up the back door to future environmental destruction.”

More information

For further comment, please contact Kit Sainsbury, Wilderness Society Western Australia State Director, on (08) 94207255 or [email protected]

View the ABC's interview with the Chair of the PGA.
Sign the Wilderness Society petition to stop deforestation in the Kimberley