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Minister discusses why he is delaying decision about Burrup gas plant in Western Australia.

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Fri day 29 September 2006

Minister discusses why he is delaying decision about Burrup gas plant in Western Australia


TONY EASTLEY: The area of the Burrup Peninsula in the north-west of Weste rn Australia is home to some of the oldest and most important rock carvings on earth, dating back tens of thousands of years. Burrup is also rich in resources, and Energy giant Woodside Petroleum wants to build an onshore natural gas plant there. 


The Federal Minister for Environment and Heritage, Ian Campbell, says natural gas cuts greenhouse emissions, and he's keen not to hold up that export development as well. But the rock art is in the way, and he admits some of it will have to go. 


But Senator Campbell says he needs longer and has given himself another two months to find a solution. He's speaking here with Alexandra Kirk.  


IAN CAMPBELL: I want to ensure that we get future management of the province right. I want to make sure that all of the stakeholders, particularly the major economic stakeholders, are very happy with the process, and that we get what I call a win, win, win, a win for the economy, a win for the environment in terms greenhouse gas reductions, but also putting in place a long-term management plan for the very, very important and ancient rock art at the Burrup. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: So you want to get agreement between all the parties, is that want you are seeking to do, before you have to make a decision?  


IAN CAMPBELL: I'd like everyone to agree on the future course of action. I'm confident we can achieve that. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: You're trying to avoid having to make a decision yourself? 


IAN CAMPBELL: No, the decision I will make will ultimately ensure that all of those interests are balanced. And I'm confident, having spoken to many of the major stakeholders, that those three goals, that is the unimpeded economic development of the Burrup, exports of natural gas and iron ore, and other major exports, the environmental benefits that flow from natural gas exports and the long-term protection of the rock art can be done simultaneously. But it is complex, it needs a lot of work, but I'm confident the right decision could be made, but I'm not going to rush that decision. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Has the area been thoroughly surveyed for its natural heritage, or national heritage? 


IAN CAMPBELL: For the cultural heritage, for the Aboriginal rock art, we have spent a large amount of taxpayers' money sending in some of the best archaeologists available to do that, but they have been impeded though lack of agreement with some of the local Indigenous interests, so it is fair to say that the thoroughness of the archaeological work is not up to the standard that I would expect for such an important area. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Well, how much of it has been surveyed then? 


IAN CAMPBELL: Well, nowhere near enough, I think it's probably less than 30 per cent. It's an enormous area. I think it needs to be understood, we are talking about a massive part of the province - a couple of hundred kilometres long by 50 or 60 kilometres wide, and that certainly is one of the impediments of having a good quality process. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: You couldn't make a decision before that had been done, could you? 


IAN CAMPBELL: Look, I think ultimately the archaeological work in that province will probably be going on for some hundreds of years, I suspect, so, you do not hold up a decision until it is thorough, but I'm not happy with the quality of the work to date. But the main reason I'm delaying the decision-making process is that I want to ensure that the economic development of the Burrup is in no way impeded by the heritage process or the heritage listing. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: You've been to Burrup a couple of times to see the rock art there. What effect did it have on you? 


IAN CAMPBELL: Oh, look, I think anyone who gets exposed to petroglyphs or rock art that have been created seven to ten thousand years ago, can't be anything other than impressed, and I'm absolutely certain at the end of this process, that the management structure and the protection regime for that rock art will be world standard and much, much better than anything that's existed in the past. 


ALEXANDRA KIRK: Would you advise people to go to Burrup to see the petroglyphs before many of them are destroyed? 


IAN CAMPBELL: I'm absolutely certain that people will be able to go to the Burrup in five years, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, or 100 years, and they will have a tremendous experience, I'm absolutely confident about that. 


TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, speaking with Alexandra Kirk.