Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Woodside and WA Government drop opposition to Burrup heritage listing

28th November 2006: Woodside and the WA Government have reversed opposition to the national heritage listing of ancient Aboriginal rock art on the Burrup Peninsula, but wants an area excised from the proposal to accommodate plans for its multi-billion dollar Pluto gas project. Both changed their minds on Tuesday following proposed changes to federal environment laws that they say would allow Burrup's rock art to coexist with industry...

"There are alternative sites for Woodside’s gas plant, but no alternative for the rock art."

As confusing as it all sounds!

Western Australian Premier Alan Carpenter says he no longer opposes federal government moves to have Dampier Archipelago (Burrup rock art home) heritage-listed. Woodside Petroleum has also withdrawn its opposition to the listing, in return for a 6.8 square kilometre area being excised from heritage listing so the company can create a gas precinct.

The Burrup Peninsula is the largest outdoor rock engraving site in the world, and is the only Australian site on the World Monument Fund's list of 100 international sites most under threat.

Mr Carpenter says his Government will work with the Commonwealth to establish heritage boundaries. "Clearly there needs to be some concession given to the industrial area that's already designated, or otherwise we face the very real prospect of things being shut down up there and I don't think anyone wants that," he said.

The Australian Heritage Council recommends 874sqkm of the North-West, including 100sqkm of the Burrup, be heritage listed. The State Government has warned that listing would have a devastating impact on North-West industry, and Woodside had said until today that it would fight the proposal.

But Woodside director Keith Spence told corporate media that the company had changed its position after being influenced by public opinion and planned changes to heritage laws. Woodside wants 6.8sqkm excluded to create a gas precinct including the gigantic Pluto site.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of rock carvings (petroglyphs), dating back to the last Ice Age, are being considered for heritage listing by Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell.

Mr Carpenter said without the proposed changes any third party could take out an injunction against activities on the peninsula in the name of protecting the rock art "and while that injunction was in place no activity could take place at all."

Senator Campbell has put forward amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act with the aim of "streamlining environmental approvals processes", including heritage listing. Under the proposal management plans and heritage boundaries would be put in place before heritage listing takes place.

Earlier, Greens leader Bob Brown called the planned EPBC Act changes 'anti-environment'. "This is a bill to put the industry fox in charge of the environment chook house," Senator Brown said in October. "It allows the minister, under the thumb of the resource extraction lobby in particular, to veto the input of Australian citizens in protecting the nation's heritage..."

"It will excuse the inexcusable," said Senator Brown, "for example, Campbell's impending decision to allow Woodside to destroy more of the world's greatest rock art site on Western Australia's Burrup peninsula in coming months."

Senator Campbell said he believed the amendments would be passed within weeks. He would not say when his decision on heritage listing would be made but said Woodside's apparent backflip would not influence the outcome.

Woodside's Professor Iain Davidson, an archaeologist, says no! "The rock art can't go anywhere else." Dr Davidson says, "nothing can stop the plant." But Senator Brown brands that the claim false. "The Burrup, ought to be protected in its entirety. The National Heritage Council clearly stated that the Burrup is a site of outstanding national heritage values to the nation," Senator Brown said. "There is no reason to withhold protection for the ancient rock art any longer."

Senator Brown said Senator Campbell should resign as environment minister if he could not protect the Burrup. "Senator Campbell is the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, not the minister for Woodside Petroleum," he said.

"There are alternative sites for Woodside’s gas plant, but no alternative for the rock art."

Thursday 30th November at 5.45 pm
Lotteries House, 1 Delhi Street, West Perth

WA to allow heritage listing of rock art - ABC
Dampier Rock Art -
WA drops opposition to Burrup listing
28-Nov-2006 Industry and heritage can co-exist: Premier
2006 Amendments to the EPBC Act
Grave concerns over dangerous new environment and heritage law changes - Perth Indymedia
BURRUP: Federal Govt urged to protect ancient WA rock art - Perth Indymedia

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