Broome Community NO GAS Rally a Success
local residents let their voices be heard in a colourful community rally in Broome this past Saturday. The battle cry “Gas Free Kimberley! Save our community!” was heard from the town oval all the way to the Civic Centre as the energetic group marched with signs, banners, and even juggling clubs and wildlife creations. A near life-size construction of a humpback whale led the way. Former shire councilor, Chris Maher emceed the event, which included presentations by Kerry Marvell, from Save the Kimberley, Martin Pritchard from Environs Kimberley, Arnhem Hunter, and local traditional owners Neil McKenzie and Joseph Roe. Musicians Kerrianne Cox, Wil Thomas, Harry Jakamarra, Clint “Westwood” and Steve Pigram inspired the crowd after speeches were made. The message was loud and clear that it’s time for locals to stand up and be heard; the future health of our unique home of Broome and the surrounding region is at stake. As the Hands Off Country blog summarises, Hundreds of the advice to locals was as follows – “The speakers … urged us to stay strong; to write to the Prime Minister; make this an election issue; beware the social consequences; understand what’s happened in the Pilbara; a wise warning about the drug issues ‘without speed the Burrup would never have been built’; to be informed; to ask questions; understand what real Indigenous employment means; keep looking after country. The message was loud and clear, no one here wants gas in the Kimberley.” Local Robyn Wells gave a thought provoking speech which questioned any trust we may have for proponents of the gas hub. Part of her well crafted thoughts are reprinted below: I choose to live in the Kimberley because it makes me feel alive, it challenges me, it nurtures me, it makes me who I am. I have driven along the corrugated road to James Price Point more times than I can remember; bogging my car in the dry season, navigating pindan rivers in the wet. I have sat in shallow rockholes and collected oysters off the rocks, tangled fishing lines more often than caught any fish. I have lost count of the stars in the night sky. I have seen the whales swimming past; I have seen the olive pythons on the sandy tracks, the wallabies, the bower birds, the clusters of Christmas beetles hanging on the underside of gubinge leaves. I have spent sleepless nights in scratchy, sandy swags; cursed mosquitos by night and flies by day. I have spent days on end camped under the blessed shade of mamajen trees in the coastal vine thickets that shelter behind the dunes. This is the place that Mr Barnett would have us believe is ‘unremarkable’ and insignificant. He would have us believe it is there for the taking. Mr Barnett would have you believe a good many things: He would have you believe that this gas hub is ‘inevitable’, that Broome will not be affected by having a massive industrial complex on it’s doorstep, that the health and education of Indigenous people will somehow improve from a huge cash flow — something which doesn’t seem to have worked very well in the past. I like the way Mr Barnett has tried to convince us all of his good idea. I’m sure we all really appreciate the way Mr Barnett and The Department of State Development have taken their time to sit down and talk to the community about this extraordinary plan. Didn’t you love the way the Department conducted their Social Impact Assessment? I know they met with a few people (of their choosing) but, really, to spend a few weekends in the local supermarket with some glossy posters doesn’t really count as a comprehensive social assessment. If you didn’t happen to be at the supermarket to get your weekly supply of choccy biscuits you might have missed the whole show. So let’s have a good look at Barnett’s idea of this on-shore gas hub at James Price Point — no doubt the first of many brilliant schemes he will come up with for the Kimberley. Lets have a good look at the 6000 skilled workers needed to build the thing, 1000 permanent personnel to run it, thousands of hectares of native bushland to be cleared, the dredging and blasting of the ocean to build infrastructure, the continuous dredging of the ocean to maintain that infrastructure, the endless to-ing and fro-ing of helicopters and thousands of ships, the gas flares, the carbon emissions, the social demands on our town — a town that can barely look after its own countrymen now, let alone in an industrialized, divided future. This is not to mention the risks faced by the pearling and fishing and tourism industry, the growing indigenous industries that celebrate cultural knowledge, bush medicines and eco-tourism principles. There are so many blindingly obvious downsides to this ludicrous plan, so much misinformation, so much push and shove, that I cannot help but wonder how it got off the drawing board in the first place. Obviously not without a little kickstart from you know who — the one with all the double chins. Can it be that Colin Barnett thinks we might overlook the magnitude of his madness? Does he think we take our future, our children’s future so lightly? Does he think we will give up this country so lightly? Is he, in heavens name, simply hoping we might trust his good judgment? I have to ask myself: • Why would I trust a man who says ‘No wildlife will be harmed in the building of this gas hub.’ • Why would I trust a man who says ‘It’s not a heavy industrial complex.’ • Why would I trust a man who says ‘give me your land, or I will take it away.’ • Why would I trust a man that demands the joint venture companies commit to his choice of site on-shore, threatening to withdraw their permits if thy do not comply within his timeframe. Why is he applying pressure for those companies to ignore the other viable options of piping gas to existing facilities further south, or using floating LNG technology? • Why would I trust a man who bulldozers his way through proper environmental assessments? Anyone who would destroys something without understanding what they have to lose is a fool. Do the oil and gas industries want me to trust them? • Why would I trust Woodside’s’ promises of Indigenous involvement in the Kimberley when I hear of their disappointing track record of employing local people in their East Timor operations. As we speak, Woodside is being accused by the East Timorese of ‘failing to comply with it’s legal obligation.’ • Why would I trust the spin from the public relations man from Shell who visited Broome recently. He tried to convince me that digging up oil from the ocean floor and producing untold tonnes of carbon emissions to produce gas was still a good clean option. He didn’t have a lot to say about renewable energy. • Why would I trust the industry to monitor and protect the environment? The shocking West Atlas/ PTTEP oil spill off the Kimberley coast last year is a warning of more disasters to come. The current US oil spill is proof of that. • Why would I trust the public relations people from Woodside who tried to convince my children at the recent Broome Expo that camping outside a wire perimeter fence, with a gas flare lighting up the night sky, is still a good holiday option for them? Does the the state government want me to trust them? • Why would I trust the Kimberley Regional Planning committee to make far reaching, irreversible decisions about my life in the Kimberley? This is a committee that includes a man who is Barnett’s’s chief of Staff and an ex-employee of Woodside. Does the federal government want me to trust them? Right now, the Federal Government is conducting a National Heritage Assessment, which includes Dampier Peninsular. There seems to have been some mistake. The Federal Government has managed to leave out the exact area earmarked for an LNG hub. James Price Point. Interesting place, James Price Point, when it comes to heritage. I had a quick look on the internet the other day. It took me no more than 10 minutes to check the listing of dinosaurs in that area. There they were: Stegosaurs, Sauropods and Therapods, wandering all over the place. Can you guess the exact location some of these dinosaurs were first described by western science? You’ll never guess! Between Broome and James Price Point! The National Heritage Assessment seems to have missed this information. I tell you, a housewife on the Internet is a dangerous thing. Mr Barnett clearly has a vision of the Kimberley. It is the vision of an entrepreneur. It is the vision of a business man. It is not my vision. I ask you all to resolve to not accept Mr Barnett’s vision. Do not accept ‘the inevitable’. It is only inevitable if we let it be so. Our vision of a living, breathing, working Kimberley needs to be stronger than his vision of an industrialized regional area pumping money back into his coffers. We must find out for ourselves how to sustain ourselves in a remote area, how to use renewable energies, how to use the resources we have in a well-organised, thoughtful manner. We need to ask ourselves how we can best consider each other’s needs. We need to ask ourselves how to be equitable. Sometimes, when I’m in a good mood, I feel like I could almost thank Colin. I could thank him for this crisis, because with it comes opportunity — the opportunity to realise what we stand to lose. And the opportunity to work together to fight for what we value.