| Traditional owners are again trying to block the Woodside Project |
by Graham Lloyd
The Australian, 19th November, 2012
FRESH legal action has been launched to stop Woodside’s $35 billion gas hub project at James Price Point, near Broome, which has divided Aboriginal and community groups in Western Australia’s far north.
The WA Supreme Court has been asked to overturn the state government’s second attempt at compulsory acquisition of the site and rule the $1.5bn compensation deal negotiated with the Kimberley Land Council invalid.
The action alleges the government facilitated an abuse of the federal court process in its dealings over James Price Point.
The new court proceedings come as opponents of the project claim traditional owners are voting to restrict the spread of mining in the Kimberley.
Within days of the latest court action being lodged, Woodside stopped work at James Price Point, removed all of its machinery and buildings and placed “revegetation site” signs around the area. The company said the site had been prepared for the coming cyclone season but there was still work to do this year.
The Supreme Court action, on behalf of traditional law boss, Phillip Roe, claims the KLC had been placed under “improper pressure” by the WA government when it threatened the KLC and the applicant of the native title claim over the area if the group proceeded with a court action to split the claim.
The KLC was acting following a vote of Goolarabooloo and Jabirr Jabirr people that the native title claim be split.
Keeping the joint Goolarabooloo Jabirr Jabirr native title claim intact allowed the government to complete a second attempt at compulsory acquisition of the site without having to deal with opponents of the hub.
A first attempt at compulsory acquisition was overturned when the court ruled the state had not adequately identified the area to be acquired.
The new action alleges the state government’s actions had been an abuse of the acquisition processes as well as the Federal Court’s claim process.
A summons has been lodged in the WA Supreme court against the State of Western Australia, WA Minister for Land, WA Land Corporation, Broome Port Authority, the Kimberley Land Council and others.
Premier Colin Barnett and Woodside have confirmed the action and say they will defend it. A Kimberley Land Council official said no one was available to comment. In a statement, Mr Barnett said: “The agreement reached by a vote of traditional owners was in accordance with the Commonwealth Native Title process under the supervision of the Federal Court. The state government is confident it has acted in accordance with this process and that the second Notice of Intention to Take was valid,” Mr Barnett said.
A spokeswoman for Woodside said: “We believe that the process undertaken by the state of Western Australia and the agreements between Woodside, the state of Western Australia and the Goolarabooloo Jabirr Jabirr claim group provide the necessary consent to the establishment of the Browse LNG Precinct.”
The company said the main survey activities for 2012 had been completed and equipment was being removed, some areas were being rehabilitated and the site was being made safe for anticipated rain and high winds.
“Some activities will continue over the wet season and we will recommence our survey activities in 2013, subject to relevant approvals and weather conditions,” the Woodside spokeswoman said.
The agreement with the Goolarabooloo Jabirr Jabirr native title claim group that provides access to the land in exchange for employment, education, training and financial benefits to Kimberley Indigenous people remained in place, she said.