An emotional Phillip Roe spoke of both his joy and relief at the news that Woodside has decided to sink the James Price Point (Walmadany) gas hub proposal.
“We are celebrating, we are overjoyed, we gave up so much of our time and fought a long battle. I gave up my job to save Country. I did it for my people, for my father’s legacy, for everything he taught us,” said the Goolaraboloo Law Boss, Phillip Roe.
“We are celebrating, we are here in numbers and we will gather at Walmadany tonight to celebrate but I don’t trust that it is fully over. The Government and resource companies want to industrialise this area, Woodside may have pulled out but we have to see what the Government, what Premier Barnett is up to next,” said Mr Roe.
“We would have defended our Country, I would have defended it to death. It is our history, our very meaning, our very existence, it is who we are and for it to be destroyed is to say none of us matter,” he said.
This morning there were celebrations all over the western Kimberley.
Woodside Petroleum announced that the $40 billion liquefied natural gas project is not commmercially viable. Woodside said it will look at alternatives.
Only hours ago Woodside said in a statement to the ASX that it had determined that the gas hub failed to meet “the company’s commercial requirements for a positive final investment decision.”
Alternatives suggested included the floating technologies, a pipeline to the Pilbara where there are existing natural facilities, and a smaller mainland option near James Price Point.
The statement to the ASX included, “Woodside will propose to the joint venture a work program and budget for the remaining 20 months of the retention leases with a commitment to the timely development of the Browse resources.”
Woodside’s CEO Peter Coleman held a Perth press conference at 9am.
“The decision is driven by commercial risk and reward considerations and the proposed concept doesn’t provide the economic return required to proceed with the project,” said Mr Coleman.
The floating technology looks a good bet with Shell having developed its own propietary floating technology.
The Wilderness Society’s national director Lyndon Schneiders welcomed the announcement. He said what would have been Australia’s hugest environmental battle has been avoided.
“Hundreds if not thousands of people were prepared to stop Woodside from working in the sand dune area at Walmadan, which has great cultural significance to the Traditional Owners,” said Mr Schneiders.
“The Premier and Minister for State Development Colin Barnett must now terminate this appalling project for good. His government and Woodside never had any social licence for this unwanted and unnecessary development.”
“This development was opposed by people all around Australia and the world, but nowhere stronger than by the brave Broome community who stood up to hundreds of police alongside the Traditional Custodians who wanted to treasure their cultural heritage.
“This development also highlighted the complete failure of the States to be trusted in approving such vast development and why the federal government needs to keep approval powers for such developments.”
Mr Schneiders said the Wilderness Society “still wants answers on why a compromised Western Australian Environment Protection Authority was allowed to approve this project when there were so many flaws in the environmental and social impact assessments.”
Broome NO GAS campaigner Nik Wevers said residents were not opposed to the offshore option or of the piping of the gas to the Pilbara.
“We strongly encourage the venture partners to focus their investigations on one of these two options. Now is also a great opportunity for the Premier and his team to look at options for developing the region sustainably, with a focus on jobs in ecotourism, resource management and environmentally friendly power generation,” said Ms Wevers.
The environmentally sensitive James Price Point Browse Basic is estimated to hold about 13.3 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Environs Kimberley campaigner Martin Pritchard said the billion dollar package of benefits to impoverished Aboriginal peoples should be honoured despite the collapse of the gas hub proposal.
“The community has suffered a huge amount of trauma. It has damaged the social fabric of Broome. However the most significant damage has been to Woodside and its joint venture partners because the negative public perception of industrialising the Kimberley has led to the slow death of the project and would have led to more damage of their corporate reputations internationally if they had continued to pursue the project,” Mr Pritchard said.
“(Despite the pull out) Premier and Woodside need to commit to honouring their agreement with Traditional Owners to provide them with their promised financial agreement regardless of where Browse gas will be processed,” said Mr Pritchard.
State Labor MLA, and shadow minister for the Kimberley, Native Title and Aboriginal Affairs, Yamatji Ben Wyatt said that the Aboriginal peoples of the Kimberley must be able to keep the benefits package agreed to by Premier Barnett’s Government as part of the land use agreement signed in 2011, regardless of how the gas is exploited.
Mr Wyatt said the land use agreement was signed by the WA Government with the Goolarabooloo and Jabirr Jabirr Native Title claimant groups and Woodside to deliver a $1.5 billion benefits package to the Aboriginal people that included employment, housing, land, training and services benefits.
“The Aboriginal people of the Kimberley must be able to keep this crucial package once the Browse gas deposits are developed,” said Mr Wyatt.
“The Barnett Government and Woodside have no reason to walk away from the benefits package as it is needed to provide a future for the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley, their children and grandchildren.”
Mr Wyatt said when the land use agreement was signed, Premier Colin Barnett stated that the benefits package was important for the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley.
Premier Barnett had claimed that the benefits package was important due to “the failure of so many welfare-driven programs or the totally unacceptable levels of suicide in many of our remote communities. It is time to do things differently. This agreement is designed to do just that.”
Premier Barnett claimed that the agreement was important for the “Traditional owners and their descendants, and for Indigenous communities across the Dampier Peninsula and the entire region, the agreement will ensure an unprecedented level of economic independence.”
“For Mr Barnett and the Joint Venture partners to walk away from the benefits package when the Aboriginal people of the Kimmberley have met their end of the land use agreement would be the ultimate betrayal of what Mr Barnett describes as ‘the most significant act of self-determination by an Aboriginal group in Australian history,'” said Mr Wyatt.
“The WA Government must remain committed to the benefits package and ensure that Woodside and the Joint Venture partners of Browse also remain committed to the benefits package for Aboriginal people of the Kimberley, regardless of how the Browse gas deposit is exploited,” he said.
State Labor leader Mark McGowan said WA Labor has always said that the gas should be processed onshore first and foremost.
“We do not support offshore processing of Western Australian gas,” said Mr McGowan.
“Mr Barnett should have insisted the gas be processed onshore but should never have interfered in the commercial arrangements or the exact siting of the project onshore.”
“The Premier has no one to blame but himself. His handling of the James Price Point issue has been abysmal right from the beginning.”
“He adopted an overly interventionist approach to this project which has resulted in its failure.”
“As we have said before, there should be serious consideration given to piping the gas to Karratha.”
“Mr Barnett’s intervention has divided the entire Kimberley community. It jeopardised a negotiated outcome between the Traditional Owners, the Kimberley people and the State Government.”
“The original process involving the Northern Development Taskforce established by Alan Carpenter and Eric Ripper would have meant an onshore site was found and met the needs of industry, the local community and Indigenous interests,” said Mr McGowan.
“Mr Barnett abandoned that process and insisted the gas be processed at James Price Point.”
“By doing so, he ensured that there was commercial unhappiness and division in the Kimberley community.”
Mr McGowan said the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley need some consideration after what they have been put through by Mr Barnett.
“This should mean the joint venture partners and the Barnett Government must examine an assistance package for the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley,” he said.
“The Premier cannot wash his hands of the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley.”
Mr Roe said that he would remain on guard against Premier Barnett and the State Government and resume the fight for Country in the event attempts are made to build the port and to industrialise his peoples’ Country.
“I don’t know how Premier Barnett ever got to the highest office, he acts like a dictator,” said Mr Roe.
“We can’t trust people like that.”
The port is on a separate compulsory acquisition notice, there are three acquisition notices all up, so just because Woodside will not go ahead with the gas hub does not mean Premier Barnett will not push on with the port or in trying to industrialise other parts of our Country.”
“But we celebrate now, and we know that it was the good fight from us all up here in the Kimberley, our peoples and our supporters, the locals, and other from afar who came together to do what’s right and stand together,” said Mr Roe.
Last year The Stringer’s journalist Gerry Georgatos broke the story that James Price Point Browse gas hub precinct would not happen.
Gerry Georgatos wrote that his sources in Woodside, Shell and Chevron had said to him that there was much dissent from board members and executives as to how the whole precinct deal was handled by State Premier Colin Barnett – and of his threats of compulsory acquisition to the Goolarabooloo and Jabirr Jabirr peoples.
Gerry Georgatos wrote in The National Indigenous Times and in other news media that Chevron would pull out and despite initial refutations they indeed did pull out. He wrote that the offshore flotilla option would be pushed, and that it was cost effective and the latest technology. He wrote that the reason the mainland gas hub proposal was being pushed was because of a plan to industrialise the area into a multi-layered site – aluminium, bauxite, ores and minerals, processing facilities and refineries, freight lines to the port for export to the world – to rival Australia’s busiest port, Port Hedland.
Last year, when Gerry Georgatos approached Woodside and asked questions about their board members’ alleged dissatisfaction of Premier Barnett’s handling of the gas hub proposal and of whether they preferred the offshore option woodside, in a first, would neither confirm or deny the allegations.
Gerry Georgatos’ Woodside source had said, “(The gas hub) will not happen.”