Scientists are still studying the “massive whale nursery” that surrounds Woodside’s contentious gas hub project in Western Australia’s Kimberley, former Greens leader Bob Brown says.
Dr Brown will soon join activists from Sea Shepherd – better known for their efforts against Japanese whaling – in protesting against the Browse gas project.
It’s his first major campaign since retiring from politics last month.
The activists will meet Aboriginal activists in Broome before sailing on the ship Steve Irwin, named after the late environmentalist, to the proposed development site at James Price Point early next month.
Dr Brown is acting as an adviser to the group and hopes to raise awareness of the environmental arguments against approvals being granted to the project, as it is in a region where humpback whales are known to thrive.
He is concerned about the impact on the ecosystem of the project’s noise and dredging.
“Most Australians don’t know that this massive whale nursery is off our northwest coast, and it is threatened,” Dr Brown told AAP on Tuesday.
He said WA’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), which on Monday recommended to state environment minister Bill Marmion that the project be approved, had not “done their homework”.
“The scientists are still studying what it is that makes this whale nursery up,” Dr Brown said.
Both the Greens and The Wilderness Society labelled the EPA assessment a “sham” because it made its recommendation for the project using only one member of its five-person board as four were constrained by conflicts of interest.
EPA chairman Paul Vogel said the assessment was extremely thorough.
Liberal Senator for WA Alan Eggleston defended the EPA, saying the Browse assessment was the biggest and most complex it had ever undertaken.
Senator Eggleston said he had full confidence the EPA would rigorously enforce the 29 conditions it attached to its approval.
He expected environmental groups would continue their protests against the development during the two week appeal period but he asked them to accept the high level of scientific investigation the EPA had undertaken.
Also on Tuesday, it emerged that the EPA had a different preferred site for the Browse development because it was concerned about fossilised dinosaur footprints on the Dampier Peninsula where the project is planned.
The other site, however, was deemed not suitable from a technical and engineering perspective.
Separately, the Greens said new polling showed 60 per cent of Australians did not support the processing of gas in the Kimberley region.
The Wilderness Society said it was considering legal action over the environmental approval process.