Premier Colin Barnett has announced plans to protect a massive swathe of treasured Kimberley coastline — on the same day he said the James Price Point gas hub would need only about 1km of beach frontage.
Under the proposal, the world-famous Horizontal Falls at Talbot Bay would become part of a marine park more than 200 times larger than Perth’s CBD.
Mr Barnett said the decision to create 160sqkm of national and 3000sqkm of marine parks was a Cabinet decision and not an election promise.
Both would be Class A reserves and existing pearling leases would remain.
“The final boundaries of the marine park are yet to be determined, that will be done in consultation with traditional owners (Dambimangari) and also will be based on science as areas of special biodiversity whether they are reefs or coastal areas are identified,” Mr Barnett said at the Mangrove Hotel in Broome on Monday.
He said it would take about two years to complete the process.
“What this does is connect the new Horizontal Falls Marine Park to the Camden Sound Marine Park,” he said.
“It creates a continuous area of marine park, along 500km of the Kimberley Coast.
“That is an extraordinary area to be preserved and protected forever and in an Australian context, is second only to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.”
Mr Barnett said mining in the protected areas was “technically possible” but “unlikely”.
Existing iron ore mines on Koolan and Cockatoo islands will continue to operate.
Just hours before Mr Barnett made his grand parks plan public, he came face-to-face with about 100 irate gas hub protesters during his whirlwind visit to Broome.
The Premier spoke with them for about 20 minutes – despite sometimes hostile verbal abuse being hurled at him.
“I said I understood and respect their views,” he said.
“I am a strong advocate of developing James Price Point as the one and only LNG site on the whole Kimberley coast and I think today this government has demonstrated its commitment to protecting a vast majority of the Kimberley coast.
“We are talking about a small area with a beach frontage of perhaps only a kilometre.”
Mr Barnett said he agreed with protesters to attend a public meeting in Broome to discuss the gas hub proposal. “That won’t be during the election campaign, it is not part of that process,” he said.
“But if it is properly organised and it is a fair and open forum, I would be very happy to come along and try to answer questions people may have.
“There will certainly be some disruption during construction but I think that once completed that plant will be basically out of sight, out of mind.
“But it will provide a lot of strength, particularly to Broome and the wider Kimberley economy, and will provide a lot of jobs and employment opportunities for local Aboriginal people, including benefits of housing, training and land grants.”
Mr Barnett also met with disgruntled Chinatown traders on Sunday, who said the town had lost its identity and needed a revamp to lift visitor numbers. He told them any proposal for funding from the Shire of Broome would be looked upon favourably by the State Government.