Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke arrived in Broome this morning to a rapturous reception from anti-gas protestors, who have pinned their hopes on him refusing to grant environmental approval to the State Government’s proposed $30 billion gas processing precinct at James Price Point.
As soon as he stepped off the plane, Mr Burke headed north to meet traditional owners including Phillip Roe, who gave him a personal tour of the coastal site.
Known as Walmadan to locals, it is one of many recommended for national heritage listing by the Australian Heritage Council for its unique dinosaur trackways, judged to be internationally significant.
Mr Burke is due to make a decision on the heritage listing at the end of this month, although his final decision on the gas precinct is thought to be several months away.
Broome Shire Councillor Elsta Foy appealed to Mr Burke to listen to the community’s concerns.
“What is going to happen to us with all this happening, with Woodside here,” she said.
“They have no permission from the Federal Government, Environment or Heritage, or anything and yet they’re allowed to come and clear our land – if they expect us to keep the law, they have to keep the law too.
“We’re trying to preserve our law and culture and my concern is that we won’t be allowed to come here anymore."
Ms Foy urged Mr Burke to look at that declaration of the rights of indigenous people, to which the government is a signatory. "You take that away from us all and we have nothing," she said.
“This is a beautiful tourist town. There’s whales coming backwards and forwards all the time – we’ve been watching them since we were little.”
Mr Burke is due to address the Broome community at lunchtime today.
Earlier, former Broome Shire Councillor Nik Wevers, vocal anti-gas campaigner Louise Middleton, and another woman were arrested at 5.40am for obstructing police on the road to James Price Point.
About 50 protestors blocked the intersection at Manari and Cape Leveque Road and police issued several move-on notices.
Ms Wevers said she was issued with a traffic infringement notice and a move-on notice before being arrested.
In Broome Magistrate's Court, she pleaded guilty to the charge, but did not accept her bail conditions which prohibited her from attending Bedford Park where Mr Burke plans to meet.
She was also prohibited from going near the Woodside office.
Ms Middleton will appear in court this afternoon.
District Superintendant Mick Sutherland said people had been asked to keep off the road.“Members of the public should have the right to go about their lawful business without being obstructed and interfered (with), and that includes Woodside staff and contractors carrying out lawful work.”