Update, 3.20pm: Broome residents have forced the shutdown of two Woodside drilling rigs at the site of the proposed gas hub at James Price Point this morning.
A Broome Community No Gas Campaign spokesman said Evan Dowlings and Frances Myles from the Goolarabooloo community scaled the rigs about 5.30am after allegations that "Woodside had actively sought to silence information around the heritage values of the site and the government’s repeated failure to enforce the Aboriginal Heritage Act".
It is understood work at the site had not started this morning when the protesters arrived and that only security staff were on site.
Police are now at the scene and have issued move-on notices to both Mr Dowlings and Ms Myles. Both have refused to comply.
Broome Police Sen-Sgt Jason Van Der Ende said specialist police were flying up from Perth to deal with the protesters.
Local police had remained at the scene to ensure the protesters safety and everyone else’s safety, he said.
“This impacts on Broome policing and the service we can deliver to people in town,” he said.
At this stage it’s unclear how the protesters are attached to the equipment.
“They’re obviously at great height and we don’t have the qualifications to get up there … there are people that are trained to deal with that and that’s why they come up.”
They are in the area where Woodside was conducting drilling.
The protesters had accessed a fenced compound to access the machinery.
Woodside are drilling for water at the site to test whether the Broome Aquifer is a viable and environmentally sustainable source of water for use during the construction phase of the proposed Browse LNG Development.
In response to the action, the oil and gas giant released a statement this morning.
“Woodside respects the right of people to protest, but we ask that they express their views in a peaceful and lawful manner, the statements said.
“Woodside has the relevant licences from the Department of Water to undertake the hydro-geological survey.”
Errol Roe, a Goolarabooloo a traditional owner of the north-coast of Broome, said he was infuriated that drilling was allowed to occur on their lands without their prior permission.
“This morning we the Goolarabooloo as the respected recognised traditional owners of the north coast of Broome alongside other Broome community members, are gravely concerned about how this whole process is still continuing on our Songcycle, without permits.
“The amount of damage done on country is escalating to a point that it may never recover. If Woodside and Colin Barnett can’t read the writing on the wall, what do we have to do, as Traditional owners, to stop this whole illegal process?”
A Broome Community No Gas Campaign spokeswoman said some residents of the township were also concerned about the amount of water being extracted by Woodside.
She claimed the company had already extracted more water than what was used by the entire Broome township each day, for domestic, industrial and agricultural purposes.
The spokeswoman said there was a danger too much would be removed from the aquifer, resulting in salt contaminating water supply in the future.
During Senate question time today, Australian Greens senator Christine Milne asked the Government if it had confidence in the WA assessment process.
She cited weekend media reports, which said Woodside had pressured the State Government to withdraw advice about breaches of Aboriginal heritage laws.
Labor frontbencher Stephen Conroy, representing Environment Minister Tony Burke, said Mr Burke would not be making any decision at the federal level until all the State issues were appropriately investigated.
He said he would seek further information from the Minister.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Peter Collier has been contacted for comment about protesters’ claims.
At 10.00am, shares in Woodside were up 24 cents, or 0.69 per cent, at $35.04.