Tony Barrass

From: The Australian

August 26, 2010 12:00AM 

COLIN Barnett’s patience over Woodside’s stalled Kimberley gas hub has run out.

The West Australian Premier is set to use state powers to acquire land earmarked for the $30 billion LNG project north of Broome.

The move has infuriated and demoralised the Kimberley Land Council, which wants the project to go ahead but claims it has been steamrolled in a move it says will put traditional owners under pressure from both the state and extreme elements of the environmental movement.

Woodside’s joint venture with Shell, Chevron, BHP-Billiton and BP could see more than 6000 jobs created at James Price Point, 60km north of Broome, where an LNG processing facility is planned to service Woodside’s huge Browse Basin gas deposits.

The Australian understands Mr Barnett will seek cabinet approval next Monday to begin the acquisition process. The project has been rocked by Aboriginal infighting and stoushes between the KLC and “green celebrities” such as Missie Higgins, who do not want development on the Dampier Peninsula.

“There is a real sense of loss and bewilderment and powerlessness,” the KLC’s Wayne Bergmann told The Australian last night. “The Premier is very dogged in his language and has risked destroying the entire project because of this action.”

Mr Bergmann said the Barnett government had not “adequately responded to the social impact” the project would have on the local indigenous population.

“This is not just a road, or a school or a backyard building we’re talking about,” he said. “This is a massive project that will go on for 50 years and employ thousands of people. While we believe the project can be positive, it’s got to be done properly.”

Mr Bergmann said Mr Roe’s recent court action “undermined the power and authority of the KLC to negotiate” and that although the KLC remained at the table, it was “not as an equal partner”. He said he expected green groups would now step up their campaign against the project, forcing traditional owners to be squeezed from both sides.

Mr Bergmann said he was seeking an urgent meeting with Woodside executives to convince them Mr Barnett’s plan was ill-conceived.

But Mr Barnett said he had never ruled out compulsory acquisition. The state had extended the deadline for an Indigenous Land Use Agreement to be in place as through a deal signed by the state, Woodside and the KLC in April last year.

“The deadline has been extended three times and over $16 million of state government money has been put in to fund negotiations,” he said.

“If compulsory acquisition was started, at any time if the Aboriginal people reached agreement on a consent basis, then I would cease the compulsory process.”

He said the package negotiated by state and federal governments and Woodside, believed to be up to $1bn, would remain in place.

Kimberley Land Council website

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