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STANDING COMMITTEE ON CLIMATE CHANGE, WATER, ENVIRONMENT AND THE ARTS
26/08/2009
Climate change and environmental impacts on coastal communities

CHAIR —Welcome. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I advise you that this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and warrants the same respect as proceedings of the House itself. In that regard, the giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as contempt of parliament. Thank you very much for coming along to appear before the committee. Predominantly the committee has been taking evidence from a range of organisations, individuals and groups who submitted when the terms of reference for the inquiry were made available, but it is true to say that most of our considerations and visits have focused on the capital cities and in close proximity to the capital cities. We have taken the opportunity to visit a couple of regional areas and today we are in Broome because we are particularly interested in getting a better handle on development along this wonderful stretch of coastline in the Kimberley region generally.

We have been looking at what role the federal government might play in the protection of the coastal zone. We have been considering the impact of population growth in many of the coastal areas that started as little villages and now are facing the pressures of a growing population. We are looking at land use and how one can marry sometimes conflicting interests over the way that land should be used. We are looking also at the impact of development on the environmental and biodiversity features of a coastal area.

We are here in Broome to hear from the local people about issues that really are of concern for the whole nation and also to test out with the community and the stakeholders their feelings about development in this zone and in particular whether people have views about the proposals that go to the LNG development and the processing site at James Price Point. The committee will not be recommending specifically to the government, because there is a process, but we want to know whether you feel the process has enabled the voices in the community to be properly heard and considered. That is a summary of where we are heading.

I now invite you to let the committee know about some of the issues of concern to the Broome Chamber of Commerce and what role you might see the federal government playing in the protection of the coastal zone.

Mr Proctor —I want to say at the outset that, while there is an environmental bent in just about every person who lives in Broome, I for one am not qualified to speak in terms of coastal zone management or other issues directly affecting the environment. As I said, we have a deep concern for the environment and partially that is why we live up here. Fundamentally, I am a businessman. The Chamber of Commerce represents businesspeople in Broome and some of those have particular environmental based businesses, particularly in tourism, which rely on the maintenance of the pristine Kimberley for the conduct of their businesses.

When I first came to Broome in 1989 it was a town of about 4,000 people. It now has a population of some 16,000 or 17,000 people. So there has been rapid growth. That growth has come from three main sectors: firstly, the pearling industry; secondly, the tourism industry; and, thirdly, the influx of government services to the region, ranging from health to policing and a whole range of services.

So it is a growing town. In the last five to seven years in particular, that has put considerable pressures on the development of Broome, which is recognised as a highly expensive town in which to live. That in itself creates pressures in terms of getting people to come and live here as professionals or experienced tradesmen to having choice in schooling and education—all those things that make a vibrant community.

To a large extent, some of the growth in Broome and the resolution of those issues have been held back by native title determinations. They are now largely in the final stages of management so that there is new land being made available for future residential and industrial growth in Broome. That, hopefully, will take some of the pressure off the cost of housing and the cost of living in Broome so it will become a more desirable place in which to live.

I think the fundamental issue facing Broome at present is that it needs another economic base from which to continue to grow. The pearling industry has had some difficulties in the last few years and there has been a significant cutback in some of its activities. The tourism industry continues to be quite buoyant, in my view, but it is subject to the vagaries of the Australian and US dollars, the cost of airfares to Broome and the cost of accommodation here, reflecting the fact that every built form that comes into this town is trucked in one way or the other, and there are significant fuel imposts on that. Tourism alone will not sustain further development in growth in Broome. We need a further activity.

The chamber and many businesses in Broome are wholeheartedly behind the establishment of an LNG processing facility at James Price Point. Equally, there are a number of businesses in Broome that are against the establishment of an LNG facility by Inpex at the Maret Islands. That is an example of the balance that Broome people, or regional people in the Kimberley, represent in the protection of the pristine Kimberley.

The view of most businesspeople in Broome is that the James Price Point area north of Broome has no real significant environmental or heritage issues which cannot be managed. I think the thrust of the Broome businesspeople is to say that development at that site can go ahead with proper management in place. It is such a small area of the Dampier Peninsula and of the Kimberley region, it would be very difficult to justify not going ahead with such a development on the basis of small environmental issues which, at the end of the day, probably can be managed. That is not to say that some of the environmental groups do not have some points to make, quite properly, in relation to the protection of some of these areas. So our view is that it must be a balanced and sympathetic development but it can be managed.

We believe the James Price Point area best suits Broome from a business perspective, because it will enable business and trades in Broome ready access to the site or the development for the provision of a whole range of goods and services. While many major projects of that nature have a high degree of imported modules for the infrastructure—which, clearly, regional people will not have the technical or business skills to manage—there is still a whole range of activity that can be undertaken by local business and which can support local business. I will briefly mention a few of those. They are the provision of internal roads, the laying of water and sewage pipes, electricity, landscaping, the construction of visitor centres, toilet blocks and administration buildings—all the sub-infrastructure that is necessary to support the high-tech nature of an LNG processing facility that will be in place.

As I said, I am not across all the environmental issues but, from the discussions I have had with Woodside and from the briefings they have provided and the seminars and presentations from the Northern Development Task Force, I think it is quite clear that any coastal development in the region of James Price Point will be properly managed and will be of significantly small impact on the actual coastal area within the James Price Point precinct. Again, that is not to say that some people will have views on that, because that is traditionally where they like to go camping for the weekend and have done so for 20 or 30 years or more. But it is a large coastline and there are other areas. As members will probably know, it is a part of the Kimberley coast where there is very little habitation. In fact, on of the chairmen of one of the local communities up there just puts it down as ‘plain scrub’. That is not to say that there might not be some marsupials in the area that are well worth while protecting.

In terms of the coastal management, I would suggest to the committee that companies such as Woodside have an unquestionable track record in management of the environment. You will probably find down at the Burrup Peninsula some of the activities that they have placed there, and the suggestion that part of that coast might become a marine reserve is due to the efforts that Woodside have put in in encouraging the conservation of the marine environment and fishing, which has increased in the area. I fully admit that it is a complex area and there are many people taking different views.

But getting back to the central issue: what is a sustainable coastal community? If Broome does not have a further economic base, there is a substantial risk that it will wither. If there is a substantial change in the appetite for Broome as a tourism destination, that will severely undermine the level of investment here and there will be a lot of heartache if the people who have developed the new resorts here cannot fill them at a price which supports at least the servicing of their debt on their projects. So Broome does need to look at another economic base from which to maintain its present position and continue to grow.

The chamber has looked long and hard at other opportunities. There will always be some demand, I guess, from people who want to live here from a sea change point of view. That will support a lot of small-business people who are builders or providers of air-conditioning or repairs and maintenance type services, but that in a sense, as you may have thought about in other coastal communities, largely illusory in the long-term outlook for economic growth of a particular region.

The chamber believes that not enough emphasis has been placed on the technical innovation which currently exists with state-of-the-art LNG facilities. Notwithstanding the issues of the oil and gas blow-out in the Timor Sea, they tend to be relatively rare. As Mr Don Voelte mentioned yesterday, they do reflect on the whole industry. Quite frankly, I see that as a positive—that it will encourage Woodside and its co-venturers to be even more cognisant of the need to make sure that the high technology they use will totally protect the local environment.

One other aspect of having a sustainable coastal community in a place like Broome is that tourism is very much dependent upon the price of airfares coming into Broome. You might say, ‘Yes, there are some very attractive airfares being offered at present,’ but those airfares are there because of the contribution which is made by the premium market. The oil and gas industry has a lot of fly-in and fly-out people at present who pay the premium airfare for the convenience of being able to get on a flight and have a guaranteed seat. Without that underpinning, tourism fares will become much more expensive and they will drop away. In fact, 18 months ago one of the major carriers to Broome was thinking of withdrawing from Broome service because it had its product mix wrong. It was too reliant on competing at the low end of the tourism market without encouraging the high, pointy end, if you like, to subsidise those fares. I have been told that that situation has been retrieved and, as you may know, we now have five jet air services into Broome, providing 57 flights a week—many direct flights from Melbourne and Sydney. There is the possibility in the next tourism season of direct flights from Brisbane to Broome. Skywest Airlines, the West Australian regional airline, has announced it is seriously looking at Broome to Singapore flights. We are very much dependent upon the provision of air services, not only for the conduct of business generally—getting people in and out, people like you who have tight schedules and need to get in and out of a town for the purposes of business at an efficient time—but also to underpin tourism.

It is not hard to imagine, if airfares become too expensive, that competition from other parts of Australia, particularly the east coast, will make it much more attractive for families to access those services, and Broome could potentially stagnate or wither, with a lot of heartache for those that have made significant investments in tourism facilities here. I am not just talking about the hard infrastructure; it is all those that have made investments in boats and fishing and hydrofoils and all those sorts of things to provide entertainment activities for tourists.

One of the other issues that arise out of the LNG plant—and the government is well aware of this, and I think it is a continuation of programs established by the former government—is COAG agreements for the encouragement of Indigenous employment. That is a significant issue for the region. The LNG facility, if Woodside make the investment decision for James Price Point, will create many opportunities for Indigenous employment. The big issue with that is getting Indigenous people to become what is called work ready, rather than trained. The local terminology for work readiness is to create the environment where Indigenous people will turn up to work five days a week from 7 am to 4 or 4.30 in the afternoon and not, as many people experience, that they will come to work and just disappear during the course of the day. It is a major risk, and it is something where a lot of time and effort are being put in by local business in conjunction with various government agencies. But growth also will come from higher levels of Indigenous employment, because that will raise the overall standard of living. There will be more education opportunities and more housing for them, which will again turn into more opportunities for local business.

The overall economic outlook for Broome and the Kimberley is very positive. The chamber is hosting its annual economic forum in Broome in the middle of September. Two of the speakers there are examining the leadership role of government in creating the right economic environment in the Kimberley, and we are testing how effective Indigenous employment can be and the extent to which tourism can coexist side by side with an LNG facility. Again, the views on that can be quite polarised. There will be those that say an LNG plant will kill tourism in the Kimberley. There will be others that say, ‘If I’m lying on the beach at Cable Beach and I can’t see the plant, it doesn’t affect me.’ Again, it is a very small area of land. Perhaps that is all I need to say. You might like to ask me some questions. I have this tendency occasionally to ramble on a little bit.

CHAIR —That is fine. It is very interesting. Thanks, Mr Proctor. You mentioned that there had been a substantial boost in population in the last decade, from 4,000 to 16,000 or 17,000 or thereabouts. What do you think have been the main drivers to date of that population increase?

Mr Proctor —As with any economic growth, you get involved in this argument as to what is a multiplier effect. In my view, the multiplier can come from various trades that come here. As I said, tourism has been a contributor. There is no doubt that the impetus given to Broome by Lord McAlpine with the establishment of the Cable Beach Club brought tourists to Broome. That put Broome on the map. That requires people to serve in restaurants, to be chefs, gardeners, housemaids, et cetera. That obviously leads to more housing for people who work there, for more places in schools for the children, for more medical services, for a greater police presence—the whole ambit of the economy starts to become engaged. Back in 1990, there was only one small supermarket in Broome. We now have two shopping malls. It is an incremental approach, but the incremental approach started to go very, very fast—

CHAIR —But you think tourism has been the main driver?

Mr Proctor —Tourism and pearling. There was a huge contribution from the pearling industry, and that should not be underestimated. But as I also said, a lot of government business came to town in preference to towns like Derby—particularly the impetus to look at Indigenous affairs. So people were located here, they required housing, they required schools, they required food and clothing. There is nothing unique about Broome in terms of an influx of people. It is no different from people moving from Melbourne to the Gold Coast. Clearly there were people who came here for lifestyle, living and retirement, but I would suggest to the committee that these have been largely overtaken by people who come here to work and live in the environment.

We have Kimberley TAFE here, we have the University of Notre Dame and we have a large independent school. We have got all the infrastructure that a regional town requires. Plus we have all the attributes that Broome is renowned for: the great weather and the lifestyle. That will continue to attract people to come and work and live here. If we can make sure that development is sympathetic to the environment, we will get more people here. We will get that critical mass which will help keep costs and the cost of living here under control.

CHAIR —You mentioned the positive spin-offs that you thought would come if the plant were to go ahead. Are there any downsides for the affiliated businesses in your organisation? I noticed that there were a couple of ecotourism operators that you could identify in that list. Are there potential consequences of a negative nature for some of the local businesses?

Mr Proctor —Yes, there will be. I have no doubt about that. But I still believe that they are manageable situations. I think people will need to think about doing things differently. My general understanding is that there are a few ecotourism businesses, particularly Indigenous businesses, up on the Dampier Peninsula that may well be affected. But they will be affected based on how they currently do their business. I do not believe anyone has stopped and said, ‘If there is an LNG plant in the James Price Point area, what else can you do with your business to attract businesses?’ I am someone who believes that a major industrial facility will attract tourists. It has been proven down in the Burrup Peninsula. A huge number of visitors go through the visitors centre there. I, for one, as a school kid, travelled from Adelaide to the Snowy Mountains to see the Snowy Mountains Scheme. I think there is a natural inquisitiveness in human nature to see something that is big and operating.

I think that part of tourism can be maintained. I do not work in the tourism industry. I am not a tourism operator. For a while we owned a boat that plied the Kimberley coastline, but even then most of those boats travelled overnight from Broome to Cape Leveque, getting up into the real Kimberley. Land based people possibly will have some impact, but the challenge will be how they re-engineer their business. The LNG site is going to be such a small site in relation to the Dampier Peninsula that, in my view, there will still be plenty of opportunities for Indigenous tourism and general tourism to re-engineer their businesses to bypass that area.

CHAIR —Finally, from me: the federal government together with the state government have attempted to put in place a more proactive engagement about this with community and stakeholders. It is called a strategic assessment under the EPBC Act. How do you think it has worked? Do you feel that the local voices are being heard and considered in the process? I guess you cannot speak on behalf of all local voices, but what is your feeling about the process? Is it working well?

Mr Proctor —In some ways I would be ashamed to say that I know very little about that part of the process conducted from the Commonwealth’s perspective. I am certainly aware that there is the joint assessment process which is being undertaken between the state and the Commonwealth. I have been an active follower and participant in each of the forums which have been conducted by the state under the strategic assessment process, so I am generally aware what is going on.

CHAIR —And have they sought the views of the business community about the development?

Mr Proctor —Yes and no. Yes in the sense that those who have shown interest have been briefed, but there is a real catch-22 situation there as I see it. This project is so complex. There are so many facets to it from an engineering point of view—let’s forget about marketing and sales of LNG—

CHAIR —And from an environmental point of view too.

Mr Proctor —Yes. For example, the last briefing we had under the strategic assessment process made the very valid point that some of the technical decisions about where to bring the pipeline in from the coastline to the LNG part depended upon the outcome of environmental, heritage and cultural studies. So on a piece of paper you might think it goes from there to there, but in fact it might need to go from there to there to there; that in itself creates technical problems in terms of the flow and pressures of the as and where it actually comes onshore. That is why I say it is from my understanding a catch-22 position. A proponent such as Woodside cannot come out and say, ‘We are going to build the LNG plant there,’ because there are too many dependencies that are still being worked through which will determine whether in fact it can go there or whether it has to be 200 metres that way. I am talking about ‘200 metres that way’, from what I have been told, to potentially avoid a sacred site. It is very complex and many people simply do not understand the complexities of it, what the catch-22 positions are, and, once you resolve those, how you then move to the next stage.

At a seminar just recently, which was run by the chamber of commerce, I tried to explain it this way. Take the example of building a house. Someone will say, ‘Right, we are going to deal with the bathroom. We are going to have those fittings, those tiles, and we going to have that fan and those lights et cetera.’ That box is then ticked off. We then move to the next one: let’s deal with the kitchen or the bedroom or wherever. So it is a building block approach. But sometimes you cannot deal with the bathroom issues until you know what tiles are available, whether the tradesmen are there, or what the prices are. So it is very complex and, as a consequence, many people in the community are saying that they do not know what is going on, and that is a fair comment.

Woodside for their part, as I understand it, are saying, ‘Until we have made our investment decision, we do not want to make too much of a statement as to what we are going to do there. We might be wrong; we might have to change that view as a result of environmental or technical or other issues.’ The WA government on the other hand in much the same way is saying, ‘Until we get all these studies out of the way—the environmental studies, marine studies et cetera—we do not want to commit too much and we have still got work to do with the KLC.’

So in the middle there you have this void and this is where in the chamber’s view there are many people creating a fear campaign. A good example of that is where one group is saying, ‘This will be the first stage of the total industrialisation of the Kimberley. Broome will not be an acceptable tourist town because Broome Port will become a dirty port.’ It will not become a dirty port. Or they will say, ‘Whales are going to be affected along their migration routes.’ Yet there is a lot of satellite technology that can be used including the buoys that are put in the ocean to detect tsunamis that have the ability to detect the sonar sounds of whales and transmit them by satellite to Perth. This information can then be transmitted to ships in the area indicating where the pods of whales are and how they can be avoided and at what speed they are travelling. So there is all that going on with some people saying that it is going to be big and dirty and it is going to be the end of the Kimberley.

A good example of that is the recent program—and I have got to be careful here that I get the right program—run by one of the commercial television stations. In my personal view—not a view necessarily of the chamber members—it was very mischievous in the sense that they painted the view of the Kimberley and they had pictures of the Bungle Bungles. The Bungle Bungles are a thousand kilometres away. They showed shots of the Kimberley coast up around the Hunter River right up in the pristine Kimberley area, not the James Price Point area which is low-level cliffs and some sand dunes.

So that is part of the emotional bit that is going through. Some of the groups will say, ‘We will pull out whatever we can to give an impression that this is going to be bad for the Kimberley,’ and it has been happening because there has been a lack of information. But to get back to your point in terms of the Commonwealth’s assessment process, I am not aware, personally, or is the chamber, of any attempt of engagement by the Commonwealth people in terms of briefings as to what is going on and where they are heading.

CHAIR —And that would be a positive thing if they were to do that, to engage with—

Mr Proctor —I believe so. And, let me tell you, there is very little information coming out of the state government as well. There are many, many groups of people up here undertaking studies.

CHAIR —It could be that they are waiting till the finalisation of a number of those studies.

Mr Proctor —That is right. Again, it is what I call the catch 22: how far do you go in giving information to the community without the community running the risk of saying, ‘This is gospel; this is it’?

CHAIR —I think the philosophy behind the more proactive strategic assessment is to get in on the ground early and get the input from the different stakeholders in the anticipation that it makes for better outcomes when everybody is involved.

Mr Proctor —Am I able to speak off the record for a moment?

CHAIR —You may wish to make some informal remarks after we finish. That might be easier.

Dr WASHER —We have not had a lot of input from Indigenous people. You mentioned two things I was interested in from an Indigenous point of view for a development like this and how they may benefit from it. One was this work-ready statement. We know that traditionally a lot of Indigenous people do not make it completely through a full working day. They tend to get distracted and wander off. I wonder about what thoughts you have had about trying to overcome that problem for the benefit of employability of people. The second thing you mentioned was native title, which Mr Dreyfus and I discussed as we were walking around the track today. You alluded to native title as being quite an impediment to the development of land release for housing here. Would you talk to us about those two issues.

Mr Proctor —The Broome Chamber of Commerce has entered into a strategic alliance with the Kimberley Land Council to assist them with the resources of the chamber. We are a small chamber with just under 200 members. And Broome is a small business town—we have very few big businesses in the sense of big businesses that exist in the capital cities. That alliance is to provide our resources in a sounding board for the activities of the KLC. I hope I am not misquoting him, but I believe Mr Bergman’s view is that the transition will be a long period—it will be a generational change. The issue has to be focused at the young people at preschool to school and to development. The reason I say that is that, if you start with the preschool people, they start to learn discipline and have a culture of going to day care, kindergarten and primary school and sitting down and doing lessons for five days a week and engaging in sport. It is very structured environment so that, as they grow, they become better educated. They will go to TAFE or university and then take their place in the community.

I think I agree with him in the sense that the environment that currently exists will gradually disappear over a long period of time. That is not going to help the Woodsides and other contractors at this point in time that might want some resources. Clearly, a large percentage of the Indigenous people are not trained to have a high level of technical expertise at this point, but there will still be valuable jobs and opportunities for them. But, I think, in the longer term, achieving the real structuring of the education and living standards in Indigenous people will be a long process. Does that answer your question?

Dr WASHER —That is fine.

Mr Proctor —Dealing with the land issue, the whole of the Kimberley area was tied up with a claim by the Rubibi group. Again, I am not competent to speak on highly technical issues such as the native title claim, but it is clearly set out in Mr Justice Merkel’s decision—probably two years ago now. As a result of the abandonment of certain appeals by the state and other changes, native title over large parts of Broome has been extinguished. I do not know how well you know Broome but, for example, last week there was a four-day workshop here sponsored by LandCorp, which is the Western Australian government’s land development agency, to deal with an area of land just out of town called Broome North. It is about 700 hectares of land, and they are proposing to bring housing lots in stage 1 to the Broome market in 2011, so that is a very fast-tracked process. It is not to say that only new people going out there will be located there. There is a general expectation that there will be some churning within the community; existing residents might want to move out to a new suburb with a new landscape, a different size of block et cetera. That will take the pressure off land availability, but one of the management issues there is clearly that it has to be managed in such a way that people who have paid high prices for land—some have paid between $300,000 and $400,000 for a block of land—will not be significantly disadvantaged by a large volume of land coming onto the market at significantly cheaper prices.

Just as an aside there, one of the points that were made by a participant in the LandCorp thing last Thursday was that, when land in Broome was $250,000 a block, people would put a $200,000, $250,000 or $300,000 two-bedroom home on it. Once land became in short supply and the price went up, they said, ‘If I’m paying $300,000 or $400,000 for a block of land, I need to build a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home on it.’ So you are starting to get an escalation of an affordability crisis. I think that is where the LandCorp release, in their expectation and in the views of the planners who were there, will help wind back some of that and give a better mix of one- and two-bedroom homes, community housing et cetera. It is still going to be expensive, because everything comes in by truck.

CHAIR —So it must distort the demographic of a township when you have those issues, so you do not get the young people who want to have families in the future coming to live in Broome, because the cost is just—

Mr Proctor —I would disagree with that.

CHAIR —Okay. I am just asking, because you were saying that if the standard price for a block is $250,000 or $300,000—

Mr Proctor —A consequence of that is that Broome is very much a two-income-family town, where both partners work. They still manage to have families. There is a high growth rate of families in the town. In fact, there are four—

CHAIR —We have someone coming from the shire, so we will probably explore that a bit.

Mr Proctor —There are four large childcare centres here, which is an indication of the demand for that. So it is very much a young person’s town. But one of the implications of that is that we suffer a brain drain. The brain drain occurs through lack of educational opportunities and choice in education. There is one Broome Senior High School. Let us forget about choice which might occur at the primary school level. At the senior high school, you have senior high, and then there is a choice of TAFE or having the children go down to Perth.

The problem for Broome or for the Kimberley region in the long term is that, once children go to Perth for school, they will naturally just transition to tertiary education there and then they will get jobs down there and they will find it very hard to come back to Broome. One of the other consequences of that that we have found is that families will feel divided and they will often cease their employment here or they will sell up their small business and go and live down in Perth. For a period of time, that can create a void—until someone sees a market opportunity and then they will come back. So one of the challenges for a community like Broome is to make sure that we have the structure in place for education, to ensure that there is greater choice, that it can lead to the right mix of tertiary education in Broome which can be offered by, say, TAFE or by Notre Dame University, and that those kids or children can then be educated at a level where they will become the business leaders of Broome and the Kimberley in the future.

I am a member of the governing council of Kimberley TAFE and one of my concerns is to make sure that we do create the environment where there is that level of business expertise over and above TAFE’s traditional role. For example, if you look at the growth that is going ahead in the Ord River of Kununurra, within a year businesses there will be potentially selling into Asia. Fresh fruit and vegetable flights will be leaving Kununurra at four o’clock in the afternoon and will be on the tables in KL, Singapore and Hong Kong the next day. So those people will need to have the business skills for international trade, finance et cetera, which are currently not available. So you can see how this all starts to work. Again, there are a number of catch-22 positions there. How do you create the environment where you have a sustainable class, say, doing a bachelor of business degree in Broome where there might be only six or eight people? Is that a sustainable number to support a lecturer and potential tutors?

CHAIR —Mr Dreyfus has a question before we finish this section.

Mr DREYFUS —I have a question about climate change impacts. What is the position of the Chamber of Commerce or the business community here in Broome about likely possible climate change impacts on either housing or commercial activity?

Mr Proctor —I think if you polled the majority of members of the Broome Chamber of Commerce they would take a view that climate change may not affect us very much. I guess the rationalisation for that is very simply that we have wet season and a dry season. The dry season runs from early mid-May right through to the end of October, where we have weather day after day just like today—fine, sunny with temperatures overnight of a minimum of 15 and tops of 29 and 30 and light sea breezes. The wet season runs from October through to May, with roughly the same temperatures—very seldom does it get over 35 or 36 degrees—but it is very humid. The humidity varies throughout the day. Because we are a desert environment, we do not get the continual tropical rainfall that most people think we get. We get most of our rain either in early December or in February/March, although a good part of our rain comes from small tropical cyclones that track down the coast and go overland in the Pilbara. So, by and large, people say, ‘If there is an extra two- to three-degree increase in temperature, it is probably not going to affect me all that much. I’ve come here for the warmth and the outdoor activities.’  If it gets down to 20 degrees, a lot of us put pullovers on.

Mr DREYFUS —I appreciate that it is the cold time at the moment.

Mr Proctor —But there will be impacts. There will be more demands on air conditioning and other services. How do you manage that? You need to create a better environment for people to access, on a more cost-effective basis, solar power generation for houses, for hot water services et cetera. Now, the Commonwealth and the states have progressively been reducing some of the subsidies for solar power, which makes it very unaffordable. For example, I am doing an extension of my house and I am putting on 36 solar panels to generate a significant amount of power for my home, and that is going to cost $77,000 without subsidies. If you take subsidies away, people will say, ‘I don’t want to spend $77,000 now; I’ll continue to pay the extra 3c or 4c a kilowatt hour that Horizon Power are going to charge.’ But then that creates a higher level of demand on someone like Horizon Power, and that requires a capital investment and, fortunately, the use of more LNG. So it is a melting pot of a whole range of things.

Mr DREYFUS —Are there any perceptions in the community here about possible sea level rise affecting Broome?

Mr Proctor —I have not polled our members on that.

Mr DREYFUS —Has there been public discussion about possible sea level rise?

Mr Proctor —Not in the environment that I get around the town in. There may well have been by a number of environmental groups; they may have addressed those issues. But looking at it from a business perspective and stepping away from it, you could say, if there is a rise in sea levels, yes, we have a huge coastline, we have large tides, we have high cliffs for most of the area, but there are estuaries that come in, and some of them are very dry for most of the year; they might benefit from sea water. But, again, I am not the person who can give you a definitive answer on that.

Mr DREYFUS —Sure. No, I am more interested in community’s perception of these things.

Mr Proctor —Yes. Apart from, as I say, some of the environmental groups that might have addressed it, not one of our business members has said to me, ‘Hey, we ought to be addressing this issue.’ The way I have the chamber structured, every committee member has a portfolio they are responsible for. So we have one committee member in charge of energy and natural resources and in fact we have one for the environment. The gentleman for the environment has not raised this as an issue that the chamber ought to get involved in. Maybe he has dealt with it in another forum, but it certainly has not come back to the chamber. But Broome is very insular in many ways. The weather is nice, you have a great lifestyle, you go fishing; sometimes there are not the drivers to have an impact on people if you say, ‘You need to address this issue.’ That is my personal view on that.

CHAIR —Tony, did you have a question?

Mr ZAPPIA —Mr Proctor, you said earlier on that the population of Broome is around 16,000 to 17,000. I assume that that is the resident population. Can you tell me what the population is inclusive of tourists, on average.

Mr Proctor —Yes. At present, it is probably some 30,000.

Mr ZAPPIA —In total?

Mr Proctor —In total.

Mr ZAPPIA —Thank you.

Mr Proctor —There is a high occupancy level in most of the accommodation places. The caravan parks are full, and if you drive around Broome you will see caravans and tents in people’s backyards and beside their driveways. Some people say at this time of year Broome’s population gets to 34,000. I think it is probably less this year, but certainly it is still pretty full.

CHAIR —One last question, from Mr Murphy.

Mr MURPHY —In your view, what area of the Kimberley coastline would be potentially the most vulnerable as a result of rising sea levels brought about by climate change?

Mr Proctor —That is a difficult one for me to answer. If you are talking about the Kimberley, many believe that even though Broome is the gateway to the Kimberley we are really not. If you look at the geological structure of the Kimberley from Broome up to the Dampier Peninsula, it is really more part of the Pilbara than the Kimberley. In the view of most people, the Kimberley starts north of Derby and runs around through the King Leopold Ranges and right up to the coast. That is the true Kimberley, even though we say Broome is part of the Kimberley, because we are a stepping-off point for the Kimberley. Areas like the Buccaneer Archipelago that have a number of pristine reefs benefit from large tidal movements where the tide goes out and the sun shines on the corals and the reefs. If the sea level was to rise, the tide probably would not go out so much, so some of that sea life may not be exposed to the direct sunlight. I am afraid that is far beyond my scope of knowledge, but I could say that about the reef environment. Most of the rivers and streams within the Kimberley coastal area right up to Wyndham, in my judgment, may not be materially affected. But that is outside my experience.

Mr MURPHY —Thank you.

CHAIR —Thank you, Mr Proctor. We appreciate your time and making yourself available to meet with the committee and to present the perspective of the business chamber. In conclusion, I indicate that the secretariat will send you a copy of the Hansard for any corrections that need to be made. If there is any additional material that you would like to forward, could you do that as soon as possible. It is our intention to present our final report to parliament by the end of October, so time is of the essence. Thank you very much for sharing your perspectives with the committee this morning. I wish you well in your future endeavours.

Mr Proctor —My pleasure, Madam Chair and members.

[11.03 am]