Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Yes they swim past James Price Point,"

Western Australia's Premier Colin Barnett says he will do all he can to protect whales from being affected by a gas development in the Kimberley.

Green groups say an aerial survey has recorded large numbers of humpback whales near James Price Point.

The area, 60 kilometres north of Broome, has been selected by the WA Government as the best place to locate a processing hub for gas taken from the Browse Basin.

Environmentalists have been campaigning against LNG developments being located on the Kimberley coast.

The Wilderness Society, the Conservation Council, and Environs Kimberley say James Price Point should not be an industrial site.

Campaigner Richard Costin organised the aerial survey.

"Over a two-hour flight, we recorded about 102 pods, which represented 162 individual whales, which is one of the highest concentrations anywhere in the world," he said.

"I think that Colin Barnett and also the Federal Government and (Federal Environment Minister) Peter Garrett need to really carefully consider what's going on here.

"They need to actually do a lot more comprehensive studies in the area, probably over the next couple of years, before they actually jump in and make any decision on putting an industrial complex there at James Price Point."

Mr Costin says the companies involved in the Browse Basin should be seriously considering processing gas offshore.

"The best option for developing the gas is to move on to floating LNG technology," he said.

"At the moment Shell are actually considering that for their Prelude Field and a number of other operators around the world are now looking at floating LNG as the best option."

Mr Barnett says it is not surprising to have a large number of humpback whales in the area.

"The whale population migrating up the Western Australian coast is one of the great whale migrations on the planet," he said.

"There are 22,000 whales doing that trip backwards and forwards each year. The numbers I'm advised, are increasing at about 10 per cent per year."

Mr Barnett says the Government will not allow any development at James Price Point to bring harm to the whales. He says whales can be seen off many other industrial sites.

"Yes they swim past James Price Point," he said.

"They swim past Geraldton. They swim past Kwinana. They swim past Bunbury. They go up and down the coast every year and we will ensure that they are not in any way adversely impacted by the development on shore of an LNG precinct at James Price Point."

North Head was considered as a site for the LNG hub but was knocked back because of a high concentration of whales. Mr Barnett says James Price Point will be the location.

"James Price Point, on environmental grounds, on isolation from communities, on offshore and onshore geological and technical conditions, is clearly the best location," he said.

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