Queensland granny walks 1200 km to Save the Reef

A 72 year-old grandmother ended her 1,200 km-walk from Cairns to Gladstone in Queensland on Thursday last week to remind Australian voters to think about the Great Barrier Reef.

June Norman completes her 1,200 km walk to Save the Reef.

June Norman is the hero of the day for having just completed her 80-day journey. She took the Reef Walk 2013 from her hometown Cairns to raise awareness of the impacts of coal seam gas (CSG) exploration projects and the LNG export industries to the Great Barrier Reef.

She arrived in Gladstone with a parade of colourful banners. She hopes that people will think about the election and choose candidates who care about the reef. She said voters should not pick the same old political party, but find out if their policies include the reef. The federal election has been set on Sept. 7.

This is what she has to say about her 80-day journey:

“I started this journey more than a year ago, with planning and contacting other concerned people, tourist operators and fishermen all along the coast. The last few months have been some of the best days of my life. Every day I met wonderful people with passion to protect the Reef.”

“One thing life has taught me is there is nothing more important than family, and this journey has been one small thing I can do for my grandchildren. It’s what every mother wants, a good future for their children, and I want my grand kids to enjoy the world and the Great Barrier Reef like I have.”

“I just don’t understand, why are we allowing international companies to come here and destroy this beautiful world heritage reef. The dredging in Gladstone should be a warning to us all, we will see dead dugong and turtles all along the Queensland coast if we don’t stop the new coal and gas ports.”

“All I ask is that Mr Campbell Newman and Mr Kevin Rudd stop for just one day and take a trip to the reef. Stop and feel its beauty. Perhaps then they might consider stopping this madness”

Climate change and rapid industrialisation are putting the Great Barrier Reef under enormous pressure. With the growing commitment to coal export markets and CSG industry, new major coal ports are underway. From Gladstone and the Fitzroy Delta to Abbot Point near Mackay require millions of tonnes of sea bed dredging that is impacting turtles, dugong, and dolphins.

The Friends of the Earth, in a joint statement with Norman said the cumulative impacts of LNG and coal projects to the reef have not been considered or quantified. The pace of industrialisation is so rapid that marine turtles could disappear before their life cycle is understood. Investigations are rapidly under way to protect Gladstone’s Fitzroy Delta Subfin Dolphin before port development begins.

Reef Walk is a message that conveys the hopes of many Australians wanting big steps to be taken to protect the Great Barrier Reef. The reef is home to countless marine species and the work place of thousands of Queenslanders supporting the tourism sector.

Meanwhile, Greens leader Christine Milne will be announcing the party’s plan to save the Great Barrier Reef in Airlie Beach on Friday. She will be flying over Abbot Point to see the area to be impacted by the big mining companies if the Queensland Government continues to allow them to operate. (On Friday, the Greens announced it has launched a $176 million rescue package to protect the Great Barrier Reef from mining.)

The Greens said neither of the old parties have ever refused a coal or gas mining proposal yet but the Greens will continue to do everything in its power to stop the approval of the Abbot Point coal port expansion and save the Great Barrier Reef from becoming a dredging dump ground and shipping super highway for the big mining companies.

June Norman with her Reef Walk 2013 crew.

“Only the Greens can be trusted to stand up to the big mining companies to protect the Great Barrier Reef, with our  policy of no new Reef dredging or dumping,” Senator Larissa Waters said in a party statement.

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Kimberley’s gas hub collapsed

Western Australia’s fantasy of making Kimberley the next Dubai and the world’s largest gas hub suddenly came crumbling down following Woodside Petroleum’s announcement today it is dumping its $45 billion LNG investment in James Point Price.

Broom Community No Gas Campaign flashes a banner to celebrate win outside Woodside’s Office. (Photo: BCNG)

Woodside CEO Peter Coleman admitted the gas project is economically unviable saying the company has been under cost pressure. He said James Point Price does not meet the company’s commercial requirements for a positive investment decision.  A major review of the proposed LNG processing plant near Broome was found it would not deliver the returns the company needed.

While this development is a cause for elation among traditional land owners and local communities who have fought day in and day out to block the project, the WA state government is now pointing fingers amid  the “dismal failure” of the project.

Theresa Roe embraces her granddaughter after Woodside’s announcement. (Photo: BCNG)

WA Opposition Leader Mark McGowan blamed Premier Colin Barnett, saying his constant interfering and meddling caused the project to be lost. Barnett has opposed offshore processing and has intervened in the decision of the onshore site which is unviable, McGowan claimed.

Woodside also announced it will immediately engage with the Browse joint venture to recommend evaluation of other development concepts to commercialise the Browse resources. Woodside would consider floating technologies, a pipeline to existing LNG facilities in the Pilbara or a smaller onshore option at the proposed Browse LNG precinct near James Price Point, a statement said.

Coleman said the company supports floating technology, but this will need to be determined by the joint venture. Woodside’s partner like Shell Australia, for example, supports the onshore floating technology.

A photo showing an alternative technology for the project. (Photo: Golarabooloo- Lurujarri Heritage Trail)

“Floating LNG can bring significant long-term, sustainable jobs to Western Australia, Australia, and the Kimberley, as well as providing employment and business opportunities for Kimberley indigenous people,” Shell spokesperson Ann Pickard said in a statement. She added Shell would work closely with the Browse joint venture and government to keep the Browse project on track.

Premier Barnett laments the failure to develop a gas hub project at James Price Point is a “tragedy and a missed opportunity.”

Greens celebrate death of Barnett’s gas hub

The Wilderness Society said the gas fiasco should serve as a warning to governments and businesses not to go ahead with any project without a social licence forcing communities to accept unwanted and unsustainable developments. He notes Barnett’s failure also proves that WA can not be trusted with environmental assessments.

Traditional owners and local communities march in Freemantle. (Photo: Save the Kimberley)

Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders said, “Woodside and its joint-venture partners have avoided possibly the biggest environmental battle in Australia’s history by walking away from Barnett’s folly at James Price Point.”

In January this year, Woodside started bulldozing ancestral burial sites in Walmadan, an act that enraged indigenous communities. “Hundreds if not thousands of people were prepared to stop Woodside from working in the sand dune area at Walmadan, which has great cultural significance to the Traditional Owners,” Schneiders said.

Schneiders, in a statement, also calls for Barnett to end this “appalling project” for good and asks him for a time to heal the pain of the indigenous people in WA. He said,

This development was opposed by people all around Australia and the world, but nowhere stronger than by the brave Broome community who stood up to hundreds of police alongside the Traditional Custodians who wanted to treasure their cultural heritage.

The Wilderness Society still wants answers on why a compromised Western Australian Environment Protection Authority was allowed to approve the project when there were so many flaws in the environmental and social impact assessment.

An aerial view of the LNG site/ (Photo:AAP/Mike Gray/Environs Kimberley)

Victory, but the fight is not yet over

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) said the battle to save the Kimberley has come to define a new generation of Australian environmental activists, many of whom have taken the opportunity to visit the Kimberley, get the red dirt on their feet, and will now feel personally connected to it for life.

The ACF also notes how rallies and festivals brought the Kimberley to the nation’s capital cities where hundreds of thousands of exceptional Australians have collectively said: ‘No, the Kimberley is too precious to lose.’ It adds the project lost its social license long ago and with Woodside’s announcement, it has now lost its economic licence.

Former Greens Senator Bob Brown joins in a Freemantle rally to oppose the planned gas hub. (Photo: Save the Kimberley)

While Woodside is exploring other alternative options to salvage what remains in the project, the AFC warns the battle is not yet over. ”Put simply, this means that the industrialisation of James Price Point and west Kimberley remain a possibility,” it said, concluding:

We will continue to update you on what this means, but for today at least take a moment to feel proud that because of Australia’s standing strong for the Kimberley ancient songlines, dinosaur footprints, monsoon thickets, bilby colonies and the world’s largest humpback whale nursery remain protected from a gas hub.

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Great Barrier Reef awaits UN verdict

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area covers an area of 348,000 square kilometres and more than 2300 kilometres long

Green activists are expecting to hear the results of investigation on the Great Barrier Reef conducted by the joint mission of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The experts visited Australia from March 4-14 to probe into the current park’s environmental conditions, including alleged man-made threats posed by seam gas exploration projects.

The Greenpeace is nearly completing a signup campaign of 15,000 people while GetUp! intensifies it drive to gather a strong 75,000 strong petition to stop developmental aggressions.

“Imagine if the Pyramids were being bulldozed or the Grand Canyon mined – the global community would be furious,” GetUp!, a major environmental activists, said  in an email loop.

GetUp! is trying to construct a simile to compare these World Heritage sites to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Beautiful marine lives under threat (Photo: National Geographic)

Earlier, the UN team has already warned the Great Barrier Reef is posed “to die a thousand cuts” with various threats including growing population, mining boom, and gas explorations.  The team also intended to re-assess the overall outstanding value of the reefs.

The Australian committee of the IUCN has warned of a tenfold increase in shipping on the World Heritage Site associated with existing and proposed port development projects. Much of it will be going through channels within a marine park far narrower than the English Channel, the Crickey claimed.

The Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) approved the project in 2011 allowing  private contractors “to dredge 46 million cubic metres from within the harbour boundaries,  inside the World Heritage area, over the next 20 years…a volume equivalent to 27 Melbourne Cricket Grounds,” GetUp! argued.

Greenpeace welcomes underwater investigation

 News reports claimed the Federal Government and the Queensland State Government approved the project amid strong protests from local residents. Further, they said the United Nations which holds custody to the Heritage Park was not consulted on the project which is a breach of World Heritage guidelines.

A private law firm for Gladstone commercial fishing businesses warned that the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project has significant long term environmental impacts on a national scale.

Ridiculous as it may sound, but the lawyer’s group said the massive dredging activities occurs 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, for about 18 months.  It is estimated that 42,300,000 cubic metres of material is to be dredged over the construction phase which cause turbidity plumes in the Port area. Contaminants are also speculated to spread in the Port area which can destroy the Port’s ecosystems.

The lawyers estimated that dredging will cause the direct loss of around 902 ha of benthic habitat (including 258.8 ha of seagrasses).  An additional 5416 ha of benthic habitat (including 1406 ha of seagrasses) may be indirectly lost in the short to medium term. In summary, the group said close to 1,700 hectares of seagrass will likely be lost and 6,300 hectares of benthic habitat likely to be lost.   There are additional obstructions of the northern Western Basin due to construction and increased vessel traffic, including massive dredges may impede the migratory pathways of marine fauna using The Narrows and the entire Port Curtis region, the lawyers claimed.

Greenpeace intensifies on-site campaign

In 2011, a three-week fishing ban was imposed around the Gladstone area after sightings of fishes infected by unknown disease. Barramundi, for instance, were reported to have suffered from ‘sore’ and ‘cloudy’ eyes, while other fish appeared deformed and had bruises

The project is a partnership venture between Santos, Petronas, Total, and KOGAS. Santos is Australia’s largest domestic gas producer while PETRONAS is Malaysia’s national oil and gas company and the second largest LNG producer in the world. French energy major, Total, on the other hand, is the world’s fifth largest publicly traded integrated international oil and gas company; and South Korea’s KOGAS is the world’s largest buyer of LNG.

The partners announced the Gladstone Liquified Natural Gas (GLNG) project creates more than 5000 jobs during construction and about 1000 ongoing positions in the operational phase. They added that the project stimulates businesses and employment opportunities in the Gladstone and Roma regions through increased demand for goods and services.

Santos builds a LNG export facility in Gladstone for commercialised QLD seam gas resources. The facility is expected to  produce 3-4 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of LNG with future potential expansion to nominal 10 Mpta. The project is consists of CSG field development; gas transmission pipeline construction; and LNG liquefaction and export facility development.

The facility – built on Curtis Island (Hamilton Point area) – is close to the industrial deepwater port of Gladstone. The Project sources gas from Santos CSG fields around the Comet Ridge and Roma project areas, with gas being transported to the Gladstone LNG facility via subsurface 425 km gas transmission pipeline. Santos is planned to drill and complete the development wells to supply 53000 petajoules (PJ) (140 billion3) of CSG to the proposed LNG facility. There are about 600 wells to be dug prior to 2015 and 1400 or more wells after 2015 (excluding exploration wells). Installation of related infrastructures are constructed including access roads, accommodation camps, water gathering networks, water management facilities, in-field gas gathering networks (to transport gas from the wells to the field compression stations, gas compression stations and pipeline compressor stations).

A comparative size on the Great Barrier Reef

The gas transmission corridor is 425 km long underground gas transmission pipeline corridor will accommodate one or more pipelines for the delivery of fas from the CSG resouces to the facilty. Transmission pipelines nominal diametere 650-800 mm.

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area covers an area of 348,000 square kilometres — the equivalent size of Italy or Japan, more than 2300 kilometres long. It extends to the low water mark on the mainland coast along northern Australia. It Includes more than 3000 separate coral reefs, some 900 islands and all the waters within the outer boundaries of the Marine Park.

It is designated as national park in 1975 and listed in the UNESCO world heritage list for its invaluable in 1981

The UN report will be presented to the World Heritage Committee in June, which will then decide whether to list the reef as a World Heritage Site in Danger.

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