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A New World Beckons – Save The Kimberley

Hi folks,

This blog came to life due to an extremely ugly proposal by an extremely greedy and ugly-spirited man, WA Premier, Colin Barnett, and his main partner in crime, Woodside Petroleum. They plan to build Australia’s (and possibly The World’s) biggest LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) processing plant in one of the world’s last great remaining wilderness regions, The Kimberley, in far NW Australia.

But don’t worry, the blog won’t be full of hard-core political pieces – only an occasional rant. Mostly it will be a light-hearted and informative documentation of my crossing of this vast and ridiculously beautiful and varied country, Australia, from Melbourne in the SE to Broome, at the opposite corner in the NW. And here’s  a mud-map for the geographically-challenged amongst you….

Once in Broome I intend to do whatever I can to help out the courageous locals who have been fighting a very draining fight against their State Government and a huge Mutli-National Corporation for the last seven years.

So please join me on the trip and do whatever you can (however small) to help stop this disastrous proposal. Visit http://www.kimberleycampaigner.com for some simple ideas on how you can help stop this madness.

And in the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about….anything at all, really: Perhaps a response to something I post or maybe one of your random, long-lost epiphanies that suddenly reappear from the recesses of your vast and complicated mind. I’d love to hear them all as it can get a tad isolating out in the middle of a the second driest continent on Earth.

For those that would like a little more serious background before we set off on the adventure, read on below. And for those who start feeling sick in the stomach at the slightest thought of reading anything remotely serious or political, I suggest you skip to the next entry.

But before any of you go, I’d love your help naming my mighty van that is also my  mobile home for the coming months. Here he/she is

It’s a Toyota Town Ace, and boy will it be getting some out-of-town ace action, especially if I take the legendary Oodnadatta and Tanami Tracks as hoped. So far I’ve thought of Tony or Tina as in ‘Tony Town Ace’ or ‘Tina Town Ace’, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. And it’d be great to name my new mobile home soon as I’m actually already 10 days into the trip (won’t tell you where yet, you’ll have to come back) and wouldn’t want it to suffer an identity crisis like me (I went nameless for 6 months post birth….and some of you have seen how I’ve turned out).

So now, farewell to you sensitive folk. Hope to see you at my next post. Bye for now, Hunter G.

Ok, those of you still here for the heavier details, the following is an altered version of a short piece I recently wrote for the Abbotsford Convent newsletter.

‘All Roads Lead to Broome’

“Can you tell me how you would feel if the church you went to all your life, the church that you sang at with your parents, your grandparents, the church that your grandparents and your great-grandparents are buried at, how would you feel if that church was bulldozed and had a gas plant built on it? How would you feel about that because that’s exactly what’s happening to my friend Joseph.” … A question to Colin Barnett from Jon Butler Trio, a well-known music band. Joseph Roe is the Law Boss and custodian for the Northern Tradition and the Goolarabooloo people. Colin Barnett is the Premier of Western Australia.

Shortly, Hunter G will be rolling across our country searching for forgotten things from lost worlds. Cutting a diagonal path across this vast continent, Hunter is ultimately bound for Broome, in Western Australia.

Why Broome? Because it’s just north of there that Woodside Petroleum is planning to build Australia’s biggest ever Gas Processing Plant, equivalent in size to 21 Melbourne CBDs. The exact site, Walmadan (a.k.a. James Price Point), is in the SW of the incredible Kimberley region, a vast wilderness rich in many things, but to the financially powerful with an insatiable appetite, rich in the most prized possessions of all – fossil fuels and minerals.

There are hundreds of sites dotted around The Kimberley that have been earmarked as potentially lucrative in this manner. Woodside’s proposed development at Walmadan is only one of them, but it is a big one, a very big one. It is expected to bring in 6000 – 8000 workers to process LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) and will play a very significant and, in a growing number of peoples’ minds, devastating role in the continued industrialisation of the relatively untouched Kimberley.

For anyone who has not been to The Kimberley, it is impossible to accurately describe its beauty and significance. If this project goes ahead it will destroy Broome as we know it within a very, very short time and in perhaps three decades will devastate the entire Kimberley region due to various flow-on effects. Simply on an environmental level, it is extremely important to protect this region from industrialisation. It is one of the last great remaining wilderness regions in the world and there are many alternative options with respect to building a gas processing plant.

A protest movement has been building over the last 7 years to try to stop this development. In recent months the protests have grown more rapidly as the deadline draws near (Woodside is expected to make a final decision in the first six months of 2013). The protest is about so much more than the already significant environmental concerns. It is about the devastating long-term impacts on the social, cultural and spiritual fabric of the region. If this plant goes ahead it WILL lead to the opening up of more and more areas of The Kimberley to the destructive impact of industrialisation, particularly due to the seaport which is part of this current proposal and which would create huge incentive for other developments due to the export opportunities and cost savings resulting from a pre-existing port.

Saving The Kimberley is bigger even than the Tasmanian Franklin river campaign 30 years ago. Both areas are relatively out of sight and out of mind to mainstream Australia due to their remote locations. And as a direct result, both were opportunistically described by their respective State Premiers in very unflattering and misleading terms: Colin Barnett described the relevant Kimberley coastline as “an unremarkable piece of coastline.”; and the former Tasmanian Premier, Robin Gray (if my memory serves me correctly), described the incredibly beautiful and dramatic Franklin River as nothing but “a leech-ridden ditch.”

But we can all take great hope from the Franklin protest campaign (people of my vintage and older may remember the triangular green ‘No Dams’ stickers. I was 12 at the time.) and the more recent great examples of community protest over many years such as the one that lasted about nine years but saved the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne and created a public arts precinct instead of a private apartment development.

Please do anything and everything you can to stop this current bout of madness from leading to the destruction of one of the most significant areas of wilderness in the world. Visit http://www.savethekimberley.com/ or The Wilderness Society’s dedicated site, http://www.kimberleycampaigner.com/about/history/ for some background info and simple ideas on how you can help. Please help save this priceless gem.

Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoy the journey. Thanks and bye for now, Hunter G. xo