01/04/2009 - 11:40

Kimberley LNG hub talks miss deadline

01/04/2009 - 11:40

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Talks over the liquefied natural gas hub in the Kimberley will continue past the deadline as issues remain to be negotiated with Woodside Petroleum and traditional owners.

Kimberley LNG hub talks miss deadline

Talks over the liquefied natural gas hub in the Kimberley will continue past the deadline as issues remain to be negotiated with Woodside Petroleum and traditional owners.

Negotiations between the state and federal governments, the Kimberley Land Council (KLC) and Woodside were set to end yesterday.

The search for an LNG hub picked up last year after Inpex chose to build a $15 billion plant for its Ichthys field at Darwin instead of the Maret Islands off the coast of WA.

Late last year, the state government announced James Price Point, 60 kilometres north of Broome, as its preferred location for the LNG hub.

The KLC has indicated talks are set to continue "over the coming weeks" with the environmental and heritage impact of the deal on the Kimberley continuing to be a prevalent issue.

"While we have made progress, there are still issues to be negotiated with Woodside in particular, and on environmental and heritage management going forwards," KLC chief executive Wayne Bergmann said.

"This has been a negotiation of David and Goliath proportion, but one where Traditional Owners have taken their rightful seat at the negotiating table to deliver jobs, opportunity and development for all the people of the Kimberley."

Premier Colin Barnett said today "broad" agreements had been reached however some outstanding issues had yet to be resolved. He said 95 per cent of an agreement had already been thrashed out.

"They relate to the way some components of the package are valued, timing related to the 30-year agreement and they also relate to conditions under which the second or third proponent would be engaged in negotiations with the state and KLC," he said.

He added once the broad agreements had been finalised, endorsement from traditional owners would be sought on April 15.

Today, the Premier backed away from threats to compulsorily acquire the land for the site if no agreement was reached.

Mr Barnett said there was little point in continuing to threaten compulsory acquisition, as the chief proponent Woodside and other operators were unlikely to maintain interest in the project without the agreement of the traditional owners.

He said an offshore project, with the loss of benefits to the Kimberley and the rest of the state, was the most likely outcome of a stand-off over the James Price Point negotiations.

"I don't say this in any way as a threat - it's just an observation of what is harsh reality," Mr Barnett said.

"If agreement cannot be reached in the next few days it is my sincere judgment the whole thing will fall apart ... that Woodside will look at other options probably well into the future for developing that gas, other companies will not look at the Kimberley."

He said the state would ultimately win any battle to compulsorily acquire the land for the site, as allowed under native title laws.

"My judgment at the moment is that there would be little point in that, because there won't be a proponent (of the gas hub scheme). We would be applying it to a piece of land that would never be used," he said.

"What we hope for is an indigenous land-use agreement which will transfer control of the site to the state but would not extinguish native title."

Mr Bergmann said most of the outstanding details of the agreement were commercial in confidence.

He said there was no question the development would have an impact on the environment, and that traditional owners were at the "pointy end" of negotiations.

"This has been a long journey for Kimberley Aboriginal people," Mr Bergmann told reporters.

"This has been about protecting our cultural and environmental values.

"We've started a process whereby we wanted to minimise development in the Kimberley, and now we're at the pointy end of that.

" ... We don't want to see massive industrialisation.

"We've started this process to see if we can fundamentally change the wellbeing of our people, to improve our life expectancy, our health opportunities, suicide rates, to make a fundamental difference.

"It will be up to the traditional owners to make a final decision."


 

 

The KLC announcement is below:

 

 


The KLC, the State Government, the Federal Government and Woodside are set to continue negotiations for the LNG gas hub on the Kimberley Coast beyond Premier Barnett's 31 March deadline.

Kimberley Land Council Chief Executive, Wayne Bergmann, said he had the support of the State to continue to negotiate to get the best outcome for the people of the Kimberley.

"While we have made progress, there are still issues to be negotiated with Woodside in particular, and on environmental and heritage management going forward,"

"This has been a negotiation of David and Goliath proportion, but one where Traditional Owners have taken their rightful seat at the negotiating table to deliver jobs, opportunity and development for all the people of the Kimberley,"

"Development will not come at any cost. Traditional Owners know better than anyone the value of the Kimberley Coast. Their responsibility to country has been at the heart of these negotiations," said Wayne Bergmann.

Detailed discussions on the environmental and cultural heritage impact of the deal on the Kimberley will continue to be assessed and negotiated over the coming weeks.

"This deal has got to be done properly as it effects generations of people to come. The critical point in the discussions will come as we go through the detail of the proposals," said Wayne Bergmann.

In the next phase of negotiations there will be detailed heritage and environmental assessments,

"Traditional Owners have a special spiritual and cultural connection to the land, which has been at the forefront of these negotiations, this will continue as environment and heritage studies are undertaken,"

"The steps taken to date signify how Traditional Owners can take control of their land, be economic partners in development and negotiate a better future for their children." said Mr Bergmann.

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