Proposed major industrial projects put Burrup at risk

Alicia PereraPilbara News
Industry and rock art in close proximity on the Burrup Peninsula.
Camera IconIndustry and rock art in close proximity on the Burrup Peninsula. Credit: WBHO Civil

The State Government is considering proposals for two new major industrial projects on the Burrup Peninsula, which environmentalists say if approved could put at risk protections for the area’s globally-significant rock art and therefore its potential to achieve World Heritage listing.

The Pilbara News obtained a confidential government briefing note that says a State Government department is actively working on two projects from gas processing proponents seeking to locate on the Burrup, each expected to cost upwards of $1 billion aand create hundreds of jobs.

A State Government spokesman confirmed they were considering proposals for two new industrial projects in the area, but said they were in the “very early stages” and no formal applications had yet been made to the government.

“If projects do formally seek government approvals, they will be considered on their merits and go through standard environmental approvals processes,” he said.

However, Greens Mining and Pastoral Region MLC Robin Chapple said he strongly opposed the government’s consideration of any further industrial projects on the Burrup, saying they would further increase industrial emissions and damage the peninsula’s vast gallery of rock art which is the subject of a push for World Heritage listing.

He said from previous conversations with cultural heritage authorities UNESCO and ICOMOS, his understanding was that if the projects went ahead they could be the “nail in the coffin” for the Burrup’s chances of achieving the listing.

“If an area is full of industry it doesn’t meet World Heritage listing standards,” he said.

“(UNESCO) are already concerned at the current impact of industry on the Burrup that might limit World Heritage listing.”

“If any further industry goes there, it’s the death knell.”

The State Government spokesman said the government supported World Heritage listing the Burrup Peninsula and had committed to making a nomination for the area, but more industry in the area would not affect that goal.

“World Heritage Listing will enhance the reputation and profile of the area and create other economic opportunities around tourism,” he said.

“However, it won’t have a material impact on industry —the two can co-exist.”

Mr Chapple said the Maitland Strategic Industrial Estate, about 20km from the Burrup and removed from any rock art, was a good alternative location for the industrial developments and one the Greens would support.

The news that two industrial developments are being considered for the Burrup comes one month after a senate inquiry committee handed down a report examining the strength of protections for the area’s rock art, which is among the oldest in the world.

While the senate inquiry committee was split in its findings, both Greens and Labor senators recommended curbing further industrial developments on the Burrup to protect rock art, suggesting new projects should instead be at Maitland.

The State Government has committed to World Heritage listing the Burrup and the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the peninsula’s five traditional owner groups, has recently begun internal consultations to determine whether its members will formally support the campaign.

Friends of Australian Rock Art spokeswoman Judith Hugo today also hit out at the proposed developments.

“Surely Australia’s oldest, 45,000-year-old heritage site is worth more than a few industries with a 20-year lifespan, exposing workers and the local communities to the negative health impacts of chemical emissions?” she said.

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