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Issue #1484      8 December 2010

Protect the Kimberley rally

The Kimberley region is one of the last handful of wilderness areas remaining in the world and it exists in the far north west of Australia – at least a two-day drive from the lawn outside the Cottesloe Civic Centre in the heart of Premier Colin Barnett’s state electorate in coastal suburban Perth.

The struggle to protect the rugged, beautiful Kimberley region is an issue that has ignited passionate interest amongst many people in the Western Australian capital of Perth. One thousand of these passionate people had turned up in the hot midday sun to hear speakers, musicians and other artists present their message of support for the wilderness against a proposal for the industrialisation of the Kimberley beginning with a gas processing hub at James Price Point.

The first speaker was Louise Morris from the Conservation Council who herself had grown up in the town of Port Hedland in the neighbouring region of the Pilbara – itself known for its ancient and rugged beauty. She recalled the trips to the Kimberley in her childhood to enjoy its unspoilt beauty.

World Wildlife Fund director Paul Gamblin said that this rally was only a beginning of the struggle to protect this wilderness icon, and recalled the thousands more who had turned up to the rally to save the Ningaloo Reef that was held at Fremantle just south of where this rally was being held.

However Gamblin reminded the rally that, “Decisions made for the short-term gain for the balance sheet can leave us with a long-term blunder which will cost a lot more to repair.” A new vision was needed instead of a race to the bottom which is what these projects will lead to. Instead of saying, “Take this development and we will give you these schools, hospitals, roads community facilities, there needed to be these services and infrastructure provided from other sustainable sources.”

What was also needed to protect the region from the long-term effects of climate change, depletion of fisheries and biodiversity were the creation of terrestrial and marine reserves which would allow flora and fauna to thrive rather than the environment to become degraded and not allow the wildlife to proliferate and thrive.

Peter Robertson, campaign coordinator for the Wilderness Society, one of the organisers of the rally, said that as well as sending messages to Premier Barnett, citizens also needed to send messages to the Gas Hub project partners of Woodside, BHP/Billiton, BP, Shell and Chevron.

The Premier, Robertson said, “Was prepared to ride roughshod over Aboriginal communities, environmental heritage imperatives – world heritage listing and the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community in Broome.”

It was also people power that stopped the two dams going ahead in Tasmania in the early 1980s and it is that power in the hands of the people that can once again bring undemocratic, rapacious and greedy capitalism to heel.  

Next article – WA hospital workers take action

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