The battle over the gas hub at James Price Point moved to a new front last week with Indigenous Affairs Minister Peter Collier accepting a recommendation by the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee that Woodside be permitted to conduct engineering and environmental studies in an area south of the hub site.
The decision drew immediate criticism from Aboriginal and environmental groups from around the country, with Australian Greens leader Christine Milne calling on Environment Minister Tony Burke to intervene.
“The Minister has agreed with a recommendation from the Department of Indigenous Affair’s Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee that Section 18 approval be granted for site investigation activities associated with the development of the Browse LNG precinct,” a spokesman for Mr Collier said. It is a condition of the site works proceeding that traditional owners are able to monitor the work closely.
Locals from the No Gas campaign said the sand dunes and monsoon vine thickets at James Price Point had been recommended for protection by the WA Environmental Protection Authority twice in the past 20 years, but were now deemed suitable for Woodside works.
“The Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee accepted it then. It has been ignored by the minister now. They are trying to rewrite history,” Phillip Roe, law boss of the Goolarabooloo people, said.
Premier Colin Barnett offered reassurance that the Kimberley would not become industrialised.
“There has been a lot of debate about James Price Point. I understand that and I respect people’s point of view,” he said.
“But that is a tiny area of the Kimberley — if the Kimberley was the MCG, then James Price Point would be one seat.”
Woodside welcomed the Minister’s approval.
“Woodside is working closely with traditional owners to identify and carefully manage Aboriginal culture and heritage at the site of the proposed Browse LNG precinct,” a spokeswoman for Woodside said.
“Woodside will avoid sites where possible, or minimise any disturbance to them.”