Sea Shepherd's Steve Irwin on its way to save the Kimberley's coast amidst allegations of sham politics to build the Gas Hub

Gerry Georgatos
The Sea Shepherd, Aboriginal Elders, Dr Bob Brown, the Australian Greens and Kimberley residents have condemned the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) report and recommendations on the proposal to give the go-ahead for the Browse Basin gas hub at James Price Point, and they described the environmental assessment process "as a sham."

"This report and (the) recommendations need to be rejected by the Federal Government. How can anyone expect the results of this sham of a process to be taken seriously?"

“Not only has the process been flawed but the assessment itself is deeply disturbing," said Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert.

“By recusing four of the five board members due to their connections with the project, and leaving the final decision up to the Chair alone, the EPA Assessment must be considered a flawed process that has not adequately considered this project."

Broome resident, anti-gas hub campaigner and Nikyina advocate Sofia Mirniyinna questioned how one person could be allowed to make such a decision and how the panel could have "a quorum of one." She said that if four of the five panel had connections to the project that this taints the whole panel and that another panel should have been formed for the assessment or that it should have been removed from the EPA to another demarcated body altogether.

"What sort of sham process is this? If Aboriginal people did this on any matter, small or large scale it would be front page news that we are corrupt or nepotist however the government does it and few blink. It is sham, and that is because the whole gas hub is intended as a done deal, battered through by the state government with total disregard for the Goolabarooloo, Jabirr, Yawuru, Broome and Kimberley locals - they want gas at all costs so they have to sham their way to it to hurry it up."

Walmandan Tent Embassy Elders Joseph and Phillip Roe are disappointed however they said they will continue to trust in fighting through the courts and "for our ancestral lands which are still the lands of our people and of our children. We cannot allow for destruction what has been here for thousands of generations" however in the meantime they will campaign in anyway possible to save their children's heritage including joining the Sea Shepherd to whom they also extended an invitation to help them.

Elder Richard Hunter who has also been taking on Woodside and the state government in court said the campaign to fight for Walmandan will not be halted because of the EPA "setback".

In the bid to save the pristine coastline, the breeding waters of whales and of other marine life, and the historical significant, past and present for the local peoples of Goolarabooloo and Jabirr Jabirr, the now living legend Bob Brown is on joining the Steve Irwin alongside Walmandan's Joseph and Phillip Roe among others at Broome and onwards to James Price. With the Steve Irwin, Bob Brown on board and the Walmandan Tent Embassy, the significance of this action will unfold in the coming days and weeks.

The whale saving Steve Irwin will leave Melbourne this week for the Kimberley coast to draw attention to the potential impacts on humpback whales by the gas hub expansionist project.

The gas hub project includes the dredging of a 20-kilometre channel and the building of a two-kilometre jetty to access the liquified natural gas from an onshore plant.

"I'll be helping to lead this trip to draw attention to the fact that this is not a good place for a giant gas factory, with huge ships coming to and fro," said Dr Brown, who is now part of the Sea Shepherd advisory board.

Walmandan's Goolabarooloo Senior Law Bosses, Joseph and Philip Roe sent a letter to the Sea Shepherd organisation. "We have seen the work you have done to protect the whales in the Southern Ocean."

"We would appreciate any support you can give us to protect the humpback in our Sea Country from the proposal to build an industrial port at James Price Point for LNG export."

EPA chairperson Dr Paul Vogel was the only board member to assess the project and said the approval process was the most complex on record carried out by the EPA.

"Creating any industrial undertaking, particularly one of this magnitude, will have an environmental impact. However, these impacts and risks can be managed to an acceptable level," said Dr Vogel.

Broome resident and Indigenous film maker, Mitch Torres said, "Woodside is going to build one of the world's biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) processing plants at Walmandan, and that's 50 million tonnes of LNG a year from the Browse, destroying pristine nature, marine habitats, whaling breeding grounds, and our cultural lands, let alone tourism."

University of Queensland paleontologist Steve Salisbury said that current near near shore geotechnical surveys undertaken by Woodside may damage nearby dinosaur tracks. However an EPA condition is the 'aim' to protect fossilized dinosaur tracks near the site.

The Roes, Torres and Mirniyinna all said it is not possible for the expansionist project to protect the rare dinosaur tracks. "It won't happen, thoroughfare alone will damage, and the project alone, and the effects of dredging will encroach on the dinosaur footprints. You know the recommendations are sham when they claim a condition that marine life must be protected - how is this possible when all hell will be dredged in the waters and drilling and pumping and on top of this 1500 ships will be coming into a port to ship to the world the gas. The EPA is a disgrace and just a front for free enterprise."

A Woodside spokesman said that surveying work poses no risk to the dinosaur footprints.

Dr Vogel said the EPA concluded that in order to protect these prints, the gas hub should not cross the shore within 900 metres of James Price Point.

"Where disturbance cannot reasonably be avoided, appropriate recovery work to salvage or properly document fossils prior to disturbance should be undertaken under the guidance of an expert and with the advice and participation of traditional owners," said Dr Vogel.

Dr Vogel admitted that turbidity from dredging, oil spills, industrial discharges, noise, light and vessel strikes could adversely affect whales, dolphins, turtles, dugong and fish. However, he said the 29 conditions recommended by the EPA would assist in limiting the impact on marine fauna.

The recommendations included limitations on marine pile-driving and blasting to protect humpback whales, plus other measures to protect seabed habitats and monsoon vine thicket vegetation.

Senator Siewert said granting conditional approval "condemns James Price to industrialisation with dramatic consequences (for the) Kimberley."

“While the EPA has identified a significant number of issues that need to be addressed, including the marine and landscape impacts, greenhouse gases, heritage concerns and issues about ground water they then failed to adequately assess them."

“I have no doubt that over the next 14 days the EPA will be flooded with submissions from scientists and community members who are ready to demonstrate the flaws within the scientific data that was used to generate these recommendations”

“Given EPA, and no doubt the State Government’s, green-light for the project, the Federal Government must step in. (Federal Environment) Minister (Tony) Burke and the Commonwealth Government must step up and do the job that the EPA and WA Government has so comprehensively failed to do,” said Senator Siewert.

Ms Mirniyinna said it will be up to Walmandan, Broome residents and environmental scientists and activists to save the region. "There is always a lot of posturing but unless someone takes on the issues in the heart of government, that is in the Australian Senate then we know what government will do, and that's nothing is going to happen. We will need to put our bodies and hearts on the line at Walmandan and around the country.

The EPA has been contacted for further comment, and questions of procedural fairness, quorum, and assessment issues have been put to them - however they said that quorum was not issue.

The WA State Government is to formally announce its "assessment" of the EPA recommendations.

Sea Shepherd Calls On its Supporters to Oppose Gas Hub for Aussie Humpbacks

The Western Australian Government, headed up by WA Premier Colin Barnett is pushing ahead with gas factories at James Price Point, north of Broome on one of the world’s most pristine coastlines.

Woodside has already started drilling into reefs and to enable the big ships to come in, there would be further drilling and dredging up to 6 km out to sea. A jetty several kilometres long would also be constructed.

This area is the biggest humpback nursery in the world. Blue whales also pass through to calve further north of the spot. Constructing the gas factories and port would mean noise pollution, destruction of habitat and also boat strikes to whales. If the gas factories went ahead it would open the door to the industrialisation of other parts of the region and could lead to coal and uranium shipments out of the Kimberley wilds.

Dolphin researcher, Dr. Simon Allen says confirmation of a dwarf dolphin not previously recorded in waters off the site for a controversial gas precinct, demonstrates that the State Government's environmental impact assessment is sub-standard. A Labor MP’s polling has also shown 79 percent of the Broome residents are opposed to the gas-hub development.

The Joint Venture partners involved in this project BHP, BP, Chevron, Shell, Mitsubishi and Mitsui are being led by Woodside. However industry analysts believe that Joint Venture partners preference is to process the gas elsewhere. It is Barnett who is pushing for this site. We need to stop these $45 billion gas factories before the final investment decision in June 2013, as there are alternatives!

If the Australian federal government Ministers cannot protect the whales in the Australian Antarctic Whale Sanctuary, then the very least they can do is protect them right off our coast where they are born. They can do this by sending a clear message to the Australian public that they do not support this.

It has taken over three decades for the Western Australian humpback population to bounce back from the brink of extinction, from the barbaric slaughter they endured from whaling. The last thing our Aussie humpbacks need now is gas factories and a giant industrial port in their breeding grounds.

Having massive gas export facilities at James Price Point would be like trying to have and nurture a baby right next to the noise of an airport, while having trucks going right through your house. The peace and tranquility of the humpbacks world would be shattered.

Sea Shepherd supporters, if you stand by us in defending the humpbacks in their Antarctic summer feeding grounds, then please stand by us in defence of their birthing grounds.

Please write to the Honorable Tony Burke MP, Federal Environment Minister, letting him know that you do not support the gas hub in James Price Point.

The Honorable Tony Burke MP
Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives, Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Scientists are still studying the "massive whale nursery" that surrounds Woodside's contentious gas hub project in Western Australia's Kimberley, former Greens leader Bob Brown says.
Dr Brown will soon join activists from Sea Shepherd - better known for their efforts against Japanese whaling - in protesting against the Browse gas project.
It's his first major campaign since retiring from politics last month.
The activists will meet Aboriginal activists in Broome before sailing on the ship Steve Irwin, named after the late environmentalist, to the proposed development site at James Price Point early next month.
Dr Brown is acting as an adviser to the group and hopes to raise awareness of the environmental arguments against approvals being granted to the project, as it is in a region where humpback whales are known to thrive.
He is concerned about the impact on the ecosystem of the project's noise and dredging.
"Most Australians don't know that this massive whale nursery is off our northwest coast, and it is threatened," Dr Brown told AAP on Tuesday.
He said WA's Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), which on Monday recommended to state environment minister Bill Marmion that the project be approved, had not "done their homework".
"The scientists are still studying what it is that makes this whale nursery up," Dr Brown said.
Both the Greens and The Wilderness Society labelled the EPA assessment a "sham" because it made its recommendation for the project using only one member of its five-person board as four were constrained by conflicts of interest.
EPA chairman Paul Vogel said the assessment was extremely thorough.
Liberal Senator for WA Alan Eggleston defended the EPA, saying the Browse assessment was the biggest and most complex it had ever undertaken.
Senator Eggleston said he had full confidence the EPA would rigorously enforce the 29 conditions it attached to its approval.
He expected environmental groups would continue their protests against the development during the two week appeal period but he asked them to accept the high level of scientific investigation the EPA had undertaken.
Also on Tuesday, it emerged that the EPA had a different preferred site for the Browse development because it was concerned about fossilised dinosaur footprints on the Dampier Peninsula where the project is planned.
The other site, however, was deemed not suitable from a technical and engineering perspective.
Separately, the Greens said new polling showed 60 per cent of Australians did not support the processing of gas in the Kimberley region.
The Wilderness Society said it was considering legal action over the environmental approval process.
FORMER Greens leader Bob Brown has traded in his political hat for a pair of sea legs by joining the crew of the Sea Shepherd for an anti-gas hub campaign.
The former federal leader of the Greens will board the environmental group's flagship Steve Irwin as it sets sail for the waters off the West Australian coast near Broome for his first major campaign since retiring from politics last month.
Dr Brown said that, as an adviser to the group, he hopes to raise awareness of the devastating consequences if federal approval is granted to huge gas projects where humpback whales are known to thrive.
"This is an ancient whale birthing centre," he said.
"It's no place for gas factories, gas ships, and all the disruption that's going to come with this $30 billion dollar destructive project, if it goes ahead."
Western Australia's environmental approval authority gave Woodside the tick of approval for gas hub development in the region earlier this week, but Dr Brown said the federal government still has to sign off on it.
Woodside and its partners plan to pipe gas from the Browse Basin and process it at James Price Point if their project is given approval.
The proposed site would include dredging a channel and building a jetty to enable ships to access the liquefied natural gas.
Sea Shepherd said the James Price Point area was a major breeding ground for humpback whales.
"This area is the biggest humpback nursery in the world. Blue whales also pass through to calve further north of the spot," the group said in a statement.
"Constructing the gas factories and port would mean noise pollution, destruction of habitat and also boat strikes to whales.
"If the gas factories went ahead it would open the door to the industrialisation of other parts of the region and could lead to coal and uranium shipments out of the Kimberley wilds."
The Sea Shepherd crew will be meeting Aboriginal activists in Broome before sailing to the proposed development site in early August.
It will be the first major Australian waters campaign for Sea Shepherd, which is better known for its high-profile efforts against Japanese whaling.
Dr Brown said the government also needs to step up its efforts in helping Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson, who is being detained in Germany.
The activists' leader, Paul Watson, replied that the project was disrespectful to the area's original people and marine species.
"There are sacred places in this world that should not be scarred with the ugliness of greed and disrespect for nature," Mr Watson said.
He said he would not be able to join the ship for the action. He is being detained on bail in Germany while its courts consider an extradition request from Costa Rica over 10-year-old navigation charges. Papers outlining the case have arrived in Germany from Costa Rica, he said.
Sea Shepherd's Australian director, Jeff Hansen, said the Kimberley whale campaign would not be aggressive.
"Australians need to see what's at stake there," Mr Hansen said.
"Most Australians don't know that this massive whale nursery is off our northwest coast, and it is threatened," Dr Brown told AAP on Tuesday.
He said WA's Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), which on Monday recommended to state environment minister Bill Marmion that the project be approved, had not "done their homework".
Gerry Georgatos - INDYMEDIA first with this story - Australia needs Indymedia.
Today, Monday May 14, after yesterday's peaceful protest by 600 folk outside Broome Police Station, police are amassing in large numbers at Blacktank camp access route - to ensure Woodside Petroleum geophysical site work for the proposed gas hub precinct at James Price Point. Police are reportedly expected at Manari Road access (near Walmandan Tent Embassy), and Cape Leveque after between 140 to 250 police officers with riot gear arrived in Broome in the last several days.
Gerry Georgatos
The Kimberley, tourist mecca and resource-rich, has the highest rate of homelessness in Australia, and just about all of this homelessness is Aboriginal folk. The Human Rights Alliance released a statement describing the homelessness tragedy of the Kimberley as a scandal, and as "despicable racism", and slammed state and federal governments for continuing to neglect the Kimberley's Aboriginal homelessness.



Whilst many politicians may be kind and good natured one wonders how many economists and lawyers posess the knowledge needed to understand the scientific recomendations made to them. There is too much at stake and the recent response or lack there of - to critical environmental concerns -is just not good enough. With a great proportion of Autralia now foreign owned- Australia needs a more rigouraous approach to taking care of the last few remaining pristine habitats on Earth.
It appears that the wishes of the majority of well educated Australians, and indeed in many cases, the majority of Australian citizens are being uninformed, ignored and/or misinformed. It is not too hard to find examples of political propaganda; based on pseudo-science where the opinon of a renagade scientist with minority views is used to to facilitate the goals of some dubious scheme. All to often - it would seem - that many people are easily swayed by a quack with a PHd.

50% of the Great Barrier reef has recently been destroyed. It is difficult to believe that a decent proportion of the profits of many of these environmentally destructive projects are even returned to the average Australian taxpayer in the formn of disposable income. The fact that the mining sector - which is significantly foreign owned - was able to have our Prime minister ousted through media lobbying is troubling to say the least. The word on the street is that people are either voting for change or for the lesser of two evils. The Liberal party had 10 years to make a difference and could not get it right. Is Labours approach effective enough?
It is just not good enough to leave the responibility of the future health of the planet up to a misinformed highly emotive and easily manipulated public that is often then ignored anyway A refernedum that changes the constitution to ensure that all desicions are based on sound scientific evidence is perhaps a solution to this problem? Many species are counting on us to ensure that proper transparent concise accurate publicly available document be produced that aquaquately conveys a valid sensible decision making process.