Gas firm to finance West Australia’s new “Dubai”

Western Australia (WA) is set to defy all oppositions to chase its dream to turn Broome into a key tourist destination– including a court’s injunction order to stop gas giant, Woodside Petroleum, from drilling at a site in James Price Point. With Woodside offering big bucks to finance WA’s tourism promos, the State Government could not back down.

The North West Australian Tourism was more pleased to announce its intention to receive the $180,000 offered by Woodside to strategically position Broome as a major attraction that will enable WA to compete with other destinations Australia-wide.

The announcement sealed the fate of Broome, ignoring pleas from environmentalists, local residents, and indigenous land owners who have staged protests and demonstrations day in and day out against the proposed gas hub. Oppositions said gas is going to destroy the ecological, historical, cultural value of Broome.

The Australian Greens warned no one wants the project except Woodside and the Premiere Colin Barnett. The party also claimed Woodside’s partners were initially reluctant to the gas venture but have been “forced” to join in by the WA Premier and Federal Minister Martin Ferguson.

And who wants this hub? No one other than Woodside and the Government. Not the general public, not the local community, not the Aboriginal community, not the environment movement, not even Woodside’s business partners.

Woodside Petroleum has joint venture partners Shell, Chevron, BHP and BP in the project who are reluctant to go to the Kimberley but have been forced into it by the WA Premier and Federal Minister Martin Ferguson.

Broome residents said Woodside have purchased the souls of the locals with its money masquerading as charitable work.

Australia’s  North West Tourism welcomes the fund offer which will significantly help to promote Broome tourism amid a “tough domestic market, the WA newspaper reported adding that Chairman Chris Ellison believes the funding will help boost the image of Pilbara and Kimberley.

As the peak tourism marketing body for the Pilbara and the Kimberley, our members look to us to deliver a strong and engaging message to consumers about the positive tourism aspects of our region.

This additional funding will enable us to better tell the unique story of Broome, as the major tourism gateway to the region, and why it continues to be one of the best holiday destinations in Australia.

Police has become ubiquitous in James Price Point to suppress oppositions. The WA Government, however, said the police presence is aimed at maintaining peace.

Lyndon Schneiders, nationl director of The Wilderness Society wrote to The Australian saying. “the mini army has been assembled on the doorstep of the Kimberley wilderness for one purpose — to suppress the widespread opposition of the Broome community to the construction of the proposed $40 billion James Price Point industrial precinct.”

All this to move away and silence a dogged and growing band of locals who have stood in the way of the plans of a consortium of the world’s biggest companies, including Shell, Chevron, Woodside, BP and BHP Billiton, to build this massive gas plant in a beautiful and sensitive part of the remote Dampier Peninsula.

WA police commissioner Karl O’Callaghan admitted the police squad is costing Broome’s taxpayers $100,000 per day.

While the saga of Broome goes on, Woodside also awaits today the decision by the Perth’s Court of Appeal whether its drilling works at the contentious Browse gas project is legal or not.

A traditional owner and senior member of the indigenous Goolarabooloo people, Richard Hunter, has alleged the approval granted to Woodside in February was invalid because the Kimberley Joint Development Assessment Panel did not wait to receive an official report from the Shire of Broome.

Hunter applied for an injunction in the said court to stop major earthworks and geotechnical activities of the project. The company is also ordered to not do work in the beach or dune area.

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Kimberly gas hub sparks nationwide protests

The dream of Western Australia to transform Broome into a dazzling New Dubai faces no paved road. The multi-billion Woodside Petroleum’s gas hub has ignited intermittent tensions between local residents and the police.

Premiere Barnett dispatches police to support Woodside, Shell, Chevron, BP, BHP-Billiton, Mitsubishi and Matsui on the road to James Price Point. (Photo: Damian Kelly)

The State Government dispatched a strong 140-200 police to James Price Point this week alerting  Green activists nationwide to join forces with Broome residents in opposing the $40 billion gas deal. Local residents say the sight of police presence has become too scary. Others call it a State Government’s “bullying”.

Whether there is a government-business collusion in return for a huge kickback, it is yet to be known. One thing is evident though– West Australian Premier Colin Barnett denied he ordered the police dispatch. He said it was the “operational decision” made by Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan.

Protest camp spokeswoman Vivienne O’Shea describes it as “unnecessary” adding that it the State Government is “spending such a colossal amount of taxpayer money to basically frighten the Broome community.”

Broome residents are against gas on Mothers’ Day (Photo:Glen Klatovsky)

Wilderness Society Kimberley campaign manager Glen Klatovsky said it was a waste of police resources and taxpayer money to send police “to crush the Broome community” which had already been traumatised by last year’s heavy-handed use of police and Woodside’s own private security force.

Today, Tasmania has also joined the action. Led by the Huon Valley Environmental Center and The Last Stand, a vigil at Pier 1 of Macquarie Wharf, Salamanca from 5 pm was held as a gesture of support to Broome residents. Video on Kimberly is likewise featured.

In a press release, Jenny Weber, a spokesperson of the HVEC said Tasmania is joining other citizens from other cities across the nation including Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, to support the people of Broome in their fight to protect one of the most spectacular places in the world.

Ula Majewski of The Last Stand also said, “Tonight, the people of southern Tasmania will be standing strong in spirit with this inspiring community in the far north west of the country. We are demonstrating our absolute support for these outstanding citizens who are taking a stand for the Kimberley, one of our most ecologically and spiritually significant landscapes.”

One of the idyllic beaches of Kimberly (Photo:ACF)

The Australian Conservation Foundation said the Kimberley is too precious to lose with its rich mineral deposits along with its historical and cultural value.

ACF believes the proposed location of the Browse Basin gas hub at James Price Point on the Dampier Peninsula will have a significant environmental impact. The peninsula’s western intertidal zone has been included under National Heritage in recognition of its extensive dinosaur trackways, but it remains in threat by the development of the gas hub.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent