The WA government recently gave the initial go-ahead to Woodside Pty Ltd to develop a massive gas hub at James Price Point.

Imagine this.  1500 ships a year servicing the gas hub.  That’s four ships a day, 28 ships a week in a pristine area with very little shipping traffic.

This development is nothing short of a nightmare putting at risk the Southern Hemisphere population of Humpback whales along with dugongs, turtles, snubfin and Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins.

Just to get an idea of how cute our politicians are these days, the WA government is actually in partnership with Woodside !  So there can be no possibility of any objective decision by a government which is in bed financially with the company that plans to build the gas hub.

Going through the mountain of documents, ( it’s always the same old story) the government and proponent rely on the fact that few groups and people will actually read the stuff because there’s so much to plough through.

Just reading the public submissions and seeing the comments back from the WA government are an insight into how little regard political parties and governments have for the public interest, much less public opinion.

I’m pasting below some of the major points of omission.    A development of this size cannot possibly be regarded as responsible.      Not only does the State government support make a mockery of state and federal environmental legislation but the development itself is in breach of international conventions which Australia has ratified to protect the marine environment.

Noise from a smorgasbord of sources will turn the ocean environment into a living hell for marine creatures.    The nearby Humpback nursery will be impacted as the acoustic world which cetaceans live in and depend on is steadily transformed into a never ending insult of noise.

Noise creates major stress in marine creatures as there is no escape.  Humpbacks and other whales in areas where seismic airguns and other noises are blasted into their environment have been seen head slapping, tail slapping and vertical diving in an effort to get away from the source.

But there is no escape.  Animals have no defense against ocean noise.   With no adequate legislation to deal with or control the impact of noise, Australia is opening the door to massive changes in the marine environment through the cumulative impacts of the resource industry and its infrastructure.

These are some of the main points of contention.

  • No adequate baseline data – would take years and years to collect
  • failure to take into account recent scientific research and workshops on the impacts of anthropogenic sound on marine environments.
  • in violation of Australia’s international treaty obligations.
  • puts at risk the Humpback population, dugongs, turtles, snub fin and indo pacific humpbacks
  • Changes in Humpback migration route and reproduction are not taken into account.
  • Estimates of potential damage by underwater noise are compromised and do not include current research data which contradicts the EPA estimates and assumptions.
  • No parameters for dealing with reduction in feeding in certain areas, reduction in reproduction, changes in migration, what constitutes a population-effect for cetaceans, dugongs, turtles.
  • Dugong impacts, recovery, population changes and seagrass implications are unacceptable.  Based on assumptions which have no baseline data, the impacts on dugongs could be significant.
  • noise data completely inadequate
  • 1500 ships a year is a huge increase and no comparison available.
  • development will not only have cumulative impacts during construction of infrastructure but ongoing, long term impacts which have not been modeled or anticipated.
  • no audiograms or necropsy protocol for dead whales, dugongs turtles, dolphins etc.
  • no adequate mitigation measures
  • estimates of received threshold levels for dugongs and cetaceans are nothing more than guesswork and are not based on ongoing cumulative impacts.
  • cumulative impacts need to include pile driving, blasting, dredging,construction and maintenance ships, barges, rock dumping vessels,  drilling.   In the EPA document there is no attempt to model all noises together.
  • these impacts need to be collectively modelled with habitat degradation, climate change, chemical pollution, vessel strikes, ocean acidity, population effect changes.
  • A conflict of interests as the State government and Woodside Energy signed a Preliminary Development Agreement in October 2009 establishing Woodside as a partner with the State government. State government has a vested interest thus ensuring no objective overview, negating the right to make decisions on approvals.
  • Carbon footprint not taken into account
  • Increase in ocean acidity caused by development has been ignored.
  • No legislation at the State level capable of dealing with destructive impacts of underwater noise.

The people who make these decisions which irrevocably threaten the precious nature heritage of this country are our politicians.

There has never been a more urgent need for people power.

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