Monday, March 05, 2007

WA government let Woodside's bulldozers destroy Burrup rock art

February 28, 2007: Bulldozers turned loose on the Burrup rock art - The Western Australian Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Michelle Roberts, has given her approval for energy giant WOODSIDE to clear a large expanse of land on the Burrup Peninsula, in the WA's north-west, as part of its massive Pluto gas development. Mrs Roberts says the project is too significant to be abandoned. But critics of the plan to detroy some of the 30,000 year-old rock art say Minister Roberts is "bloody-minded" and "Orwellian" in her refusal to discuss the simple alternative of relocating the site, not the rock art...
"The Western Australian Government is treating Aboriginal heritage with contempt," says WA Greens Senator Rachael Siewert. "Traditional Owners opposed development in this area... the Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee opposed development in this area," said Senator Siewert. "But through sheer bloody-mindedness and refusal to consider alternate locations, Woodside has been given approvals to destroy the area."

Mrs Roberts approval ignores calls for the project to be moved to protect its ancient rock art, with Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull refusing to safeguard the site by giving it a national heritage listing. Roberts' approval will almost certainly cause even more damage to the already descrated Burrup Peninsula rock art province. It seems WOODSIDE and the WA Government are acting against the wishes of hindreds of thousands of people across the planet, as well as the site`s Aboriginal custodians and the scientific community.

"It is ironic that Woodside will have to 'provide a comprehensive cultural management plan' for the areas that have been spared from the bulldozers," said Senator Siewert. "This kind of Orwellian language would not be necessary if the Government was properly upholding its responsibilities to look after cultural heritage."

Indigenous Affairs Minister Michelle Roberts gave Woodside the green light to develop Site B on its $10 billion Pluto gas project on the Burrup Peninsula, arguing the dollar value of the controversial development was too great to ignore - despite the potential solution of shifting the site.

But Mrs Roberts claims there were no economically viable alternative sites to Pluto site B. The project is still awaiting further environmental approvals and a final investment decision by Woodside is not expected until the middle of the year, but its LNG exports are set to start in 2010.

According to The West Australian Newspaper, Woodside welcomed Mrs Roberts’ decision but said it was one of several approvals it required for the project to proceed. Liberal MP Colin Barnett — who has been campaigning to move the project to a cleared, adjacent site leased by the North-West Shelf Venture Partners — said he was disappointed with the decision. Mr Barnett said Woodside could face legal ramifications because Pluto had not been subject to a State agreement.

The Burrup Peninsula is the world's largest outdoor rock engraving site, containing rock art of world importance possibly dating back to 30,000 years ago, including possibly the first ever representation of the human face in history.

Pictures of rock art removal on the Burrup peninsula show hundreds of boulders lying in piles amid red dust and rubble, after being bulldozed in recent weeks to make way for Woodside Petroleum's Pluto gas processing plant. The secretly taken photographs show the extent of removal of rocks containing ancient Aboriginal carvings dating back as far as 10-20,000 years. Scraped and smashed rocks, with carvings visible on some surfaces, lie in piles several metres high.

The National Trust of Australia, says the government has effectively sanctioned the continued destruction of one of the world's great rock art galleries. "It's an absolute disgrace and there will be outrage internationally," state National Trust executive director Tom Perrigo said, describing the government as having
"utter contempt for this national treasure."

Senator Siewart says: "This is a unique place that meets the criteria for heritage listing. He is making Australia an international laughing stock. Following delays by both WA and Federal for heratige listing, Site A of the Woodside development has been bulldozed, resulting in the removal of hundreds of pieces of rock art and loss of their cultural value."

No moves had been made by the Commonwealth or State governments to discuss the possible co-location of the Woodside development.

"I ask once again - why hasn't the Commonwealth used its influence to try and facilitate such discussions? Mr Turnbull is failing Australia's heritage, and one can only presume the reason for delay is to let development proceed without heritage listing," Senator Siewert said.

Friends of Burrup Rock Art convenor Robin Chapple said the federal and West Australian governments should halt further clearing and direct Woodside to relocate its Pluto plant to a cleared site owned by the North West Shelf joint venturers. "Otherwise we'll end up as international pariahs viewed in the same light as the Taliban when they blew up the Bamiyan statues," he said.

Burrup rock art vigils held in recent weeks in several countries, including at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, have intensified international coverage of the Burrup's fate. More vigils are planned at the mouth of France's rock art-decorated Lascaux Caves, in Rio de Janeiro and in Canberra.

ABC News
The West
Media Release
The Australian

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