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Commonwealth returns Monte Bello islands to Western Australia

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8 July 1992


The Commonwealth Government has ended 40 years of control of the Monte Bello islands, north-west of Dampier, by transferring responsibility back to Western Australia.

The Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, Simon Crean, announced the removal of a Commonwealth declaration of the islands as a prohibited area during a visit to Trimouille Island today with the WA Environment Minister, Bob Pearce.

Controls on access to the area were put in place in 1952 when Britain's first nuclear test, in an operation code- named Hurricane, was conducted on the islands. Two further atomic tests were carried out in 1956.

As part of the hand-over, Mr Crean announced Federal funding of $310,000 to assist the WA Government in establishing a conservation park.

"The establishment of a conservation park satisfies the requirement for the island to be properly managed and the need to recognise and suitably protect the natural environment of the islands." '

Mr Crean said the Government had established a Technical Assessment Group (TAG) in response to Royal Commission recommendations, to examine the nature and extent of contamination at the former British nuclear test sites.

"One of TAG'S responsibilities was to assess the radiological condition of the Monte Bello islands."

The Minister said under the land use envisaged by Western Australia, TAG found there was no reason why the islands could not be returned to WA.

"The Commonwealth sees the return of the islands as a significant step in addressing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the British nuclear tests in Australia."

The Monte Bello islands are a group of over 100 islands approximately 75 kilometres off the Pilbara Coast to the north of Barrow Island.

Contact: Catherine Payne, Minister's Office (06) 277 7520.

Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600. Telephone: (06)277 7520 Facsimile: (06)273 4120