Recently Premier Colin Barnett announced the completion of his compulsory acquisition process for land for a gas processing facility at James Price Point. (See news links at the bottom of this page.) Because of (main proponent) Woodside’s announcement earlier this year that they would not invest in the project, many presumed the project to be dead and buried; hence, a great amount of confusion on the subject for people in our region with Barnett’s November announcement. Our legal consultants have helped us pen words to the broader community to explain the ramifications of such an after-the-fact land grab, and to assure the community that any development at JPP remains more further away than ever.
Because this is OUR home….
An open letter to the people of Broome
Recently, Premier Barnett announced that the State had compulsorily acquired land at James Price Point, for his beloved gas hub. He told us that he would do “whatever it takes” to develop this site. We all remember that he selected it himself.
He has talked like this many times before.
The State has twice bungled the compulsory acquisition process. Even if there were no mistakes this time, there is no clear path forward for the Premier and ‘his’ development.
The Premier knows the only purpose for which the land at James Price Point can be used is an onshore processing precinct for gas from the Browse Basin. Woodside just spent more than $1.5 billion proving that this is not feasible.
Right now there is no plan, no proponent and no financial backing for any development at JPP. The State government is not going to build anything.
The Premier knows that now that Woodside has pulled out and the Goolarabooloo–Jabirr Jabirr claim has split, there is no one to negotiate with about the changes to the Browse agreements and the Browse (Land) Agreement Act 2012, which must be implemented before a supply base can be built without an onshore processing facility. (Footnote 1)
The Premier says that JPP is “project ready”. He would know that ‘his’ development does not have environmental approval under State or Commonwealth law, and that any new proponent will have to seek fresh authorisation under the Aboriginal Heritage Act to destroy the sites, the country and the law at Walmadan. Most, if not all, of the Browse Basin tenement holders have voluntarily adopted human rights standards to guide their business activities throughout the world. Those companies know that they cannot build a gas hub at this location without seriously compromising those standards.
The Premier wants us to believe that when the Supreme Court handed down its decision on the faulty EPA approval process of the proposed James Price Point precinct in August this year, it was just a technicality.
This is just not true. The Supreme Court drew a line through the assessment process itself. (Footnote 2) The Court found that there was never a quorum of the EPA at any meeting between 12 November 2009 and 1 March 2012. Through these periods, panel members with conflicts of interest remained active in progressing the assessment, when according to law, they were prohibited from participating. The strategic assessment reports were significantly influenced by decisions made during this period, as the State admitted in the proceedings. The Supreme Court concluded that even though the EPA’s decision was handed to the Minister after those with conflicts of interest had stepped down, the EPA decision was inextricably related to the work done throughout this lengthy process. Therefore, the Court ruled that the EPA’s assessment was completely invalid. They ruled that there has been no valid environmental assessment of the proposed industrial development at James Price Point – how’s that for a technicality?
The Premier now stands alone like a shag on a rock. Industry have left. The Shire now believe that JPP is dead, so too do does business and industry. The gas hub’s staunchest advocates have left in their droves, and have left a mess that the town now has to clean up.
One of Broome’s greatest strengths is its ability to group together and clean up after a big storm, and that is what we are doing now. It is time to clean up and move on.
The Premier continues to bark his rhetoric from the security of Perth, but they are only words, and only a fool would believe them now.
From Save the Kimberley – a cross section of the Broome community.
For further reading, see these footnoted primary sources:
Footnote 1: On the withdrawal of the GJJ native title claim and the Browse PPA – see Augustine v Western Australia at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FCA/2013/338.html especially at -
Footnote 2: The Supreme Court decision on the environmental approvals is The Wilderness Society of WA (Inc) and Richard Hunter v Minister for Environment  WASC 307 – http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/wa/WASC/2013/307.html especially at , -, -
Read more in the media:
ABC website – 13 November, 2013 “James Price Point will be developed: Premier Barnett” http://www.abc.net.au/local/audio/2013/11/12/3889395.htm
Indymedia Australia (numerous news listings) - 14 November, 2013 – “WGAR News: Government concludes acquisition of controversial gas hub land north of Broome” http://indymedia.org.au/2013/11/13/wgar-news-government-concludes-acquisition-of-controversial-gas-hub-land-north-of-broome-
Crikey – 23 August, 2013 – “Crikey Clarifier: Behind the James Price Point decision” http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/08/23/crikey-clarifier-behind-the-james-price-point-decision/