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Walmadany - James Price Point
Walmadany James Price Point
Walmadany (James Price Point) is located 40km north of Broome. It is a spectacular place that is in danger of being destroyed by the Woodside/Barnett Government proposal to build one of the world’s largest liquefied natural gas plants to process Browse Basin gas and condensate.
Natural, cultural and social values
In its natural state it has much to offer: twenty metre high pindan cliffs fall dramatically to the white beach sand and turquoise waters below. The land supports countless birds, reptiles and mammals including the critically endangered Bilby.
A narrow strip of monsoon vine thickets separates the pindan vegetation from the beach. This freshwater sink maintains plant life critical to the survival of many species and contains bush medicine and bush tucker that has sustained local people for millenia. The near shore reef is home to a mass of life, from corals and algae, oysters and clam shells to deadly octopus and many varieties of fish. Nesting turtles visit the area and Humpback whales can be seen during their migration to calving grounds a little further north.
Walmadany is home to the Jabirr Jabirr and Goolarabooloo people. Shell middens all along the coast attest to the many thousands of years of traditional occupation and each year custodians conduct walks on the Lurujarri Heritage Trail from Minyirr to Minarriny. The place is named after Walmadany, a powerful maban (healer, magic man) and leader who lived at the beginning of the 20th century and fought to protect his people and the land from intruders.
Price’s Point is greatly loved by other groups too: it is of great interest to palaeontologists who say it contains some of the world’s rarest examples of dinosaur tracks, to members of the Broome community and tourists who come to fish and camp and to community groups who hold regular clean up days to remove rubbish and weeds from the area and conduct nature surveys.
Browse LNG Hub Proposal
The State Government and Woodside have identified Walmadany as the preferred location for the Browse LNG Processing Precinct. The precinct would occupy 1,000 hectares of sea and 2,500 hectare area of land. If built, it would increase Broome’s population by 6,000 workers, putting pressure on the town’s infrastructure and threatening existing industries such as tourism and pearling. The 180 metre flare tower at the processing plant would light up the night sky and would be seen from 30 kilometres away.
Community opposition to the Browse LNG Precinct plan is growing
Ever since the Barnett Government announced its intention to support development of the Browse precinct at Walmadany, community opposition to the plan has been growing. While some traditional owners, supported by the Kimberley Land Council, back the project, others are bitterly opposed. Similarly, while there are some in the Broome community who want to see it go ahead, arguing it will bring jobs and other financial benefits, there are many more who argue the social, cultural and environmental disadvantages of the project.
I firmly believe that James Price Point is not a suitable location for an LNG processing hub and that such a development is just a precursor to the larger agenda of the industrialisation of the Kimberley. This is identified in the ‘Regional Minerals Program: Developing the West Kimberley's Resources 2005’. All of these projects will have long term negative impacts on the nature of the region as well as threatening culture and community.
The WA Government has undermined the indigenous negotiation process by virtue of the threat of compulsory acquisition. This has led to ongoing community dissent and unrest. Throughout this process, the WA Government has adopted a ‘develop at any cost’ mentality. This must change.
The usual industry claim is that they create local flow-on employment. However, as is evidenced elsewhere, the proposed fly-in, fly-out workforce will not spend its income in those communities closest to the development. They will take it with them to wherever they and their families live.
UPDATE 19 April 2012:
Amidst reports of a slide in Woodside’s share price, rising costs, a gas glut brought on by better shale gas techniques being applied by US operators and growing community opposition, Woodside has postponed its final investment decision (FID) which was due mid-2012 to the first half of 2013. The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) also postponed its decision on the project after it found Woodside’s modelling of planned dredging had ‘several deficiencies’, including the potential for arsenic, nickel and zinc to be released into the water.
Other environmental studies were also found to be inadequate e.g. Woodside found no viable turtle nests, while independent marine biologist Malcolm Lindsay found 14; and an independent report found the social impact assessments authored by the Kimberley Land Council and the State government had omitted, or understated, significant risks to the health and welfare of women in Aboriginal communities.
As doubts continue to grow about the viability of the stand-alone project, the State Government, on 21 March 2012, issued a notice of intent to compulsorily acquire land at James Price Point for the purpose of constructing an LNG processing hub. This was the second such Notice of Intent to Take (NOITT) announced by the State Government in relation to land near James Price Point. The first NOITT, issued in 2010, was successfully challenged in the Supreme Court of WA when it omitted to state exactly how much land the Government wanted to take. This latest bid is expected to meet the same opposition as the first.
- Environs Kimberley (www.environskimberley.org.au)
- Hands Off Country (www.handsoffcountry.blogspot.com.au)
- Save The Kimberley (www.savethekimberley.com)
- Goolarabooloo Lurujarri Heritage Trail (www.goolarabooloo.org.au/lurujarri.html)
- The Wilderness Society (www.wilderness.org.au)
- Kimberley Protectors (www.kimberlyprotectors.webs.com)