Gov under fire over exploration leases near reefs

Energy Matters0

Gov under fire over exploration leases near reefs

ABCUpdated April 11, 2012, 10:19 am

The Federal Government is under fire for offering up areas close to the Rowley Shoals, a world-class diving spot off the W-A coast, to oil and gas exploration.

Expressions of interest in the proposed lease areas, just three nautical miles from the coral reefs, close tomorrow.

The shoals, 260 kilometres west of Broome, are said to rival the Great Barrier Reef for their spectacular marine life.

Paul Gamblin of the World Wildlife Fund says any development so close to the reef would be devastating.

“It’s a place where wildlife including whales and dolphins, turtles, sharks, tuna, fish in their abundance, hundreds of species of coral are found,” Mr Gamblin said.

“An oil spill, even a small spill, within a few kilometres of a place like this which is so healthy, so pristine, could be devastating.”

The Federal Minister for Resources Martin Ferguson says part of the potential lease area is being considered for a marine reserve.

He says any successful bidder will have to have an environmental plan assessed by regulators, before undertaking any seismic or drilling activity.

The State Opposition’s Environment spokeswoman, Sally Talbot, has criticised the move by her Federal Labor colleagues.

She says it is also up to the State Government to oppose the leases.

“The whole of the Kimberley at the moment is gripped by uncertainty about the environmental future of the Kimberley under the Barnett Government,” Dr Talbot said.

“I would expect the Barnett Government to be out there fighting ferociously to protect this precious area and all we’re hearing at the moment is a deafening silence.”

The State Environment Minister, Bill Marmion, has been contacted for comment.

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