In a major victory for the WA environment, Premier Mark McGowan, Minister for Environment, Amber-Jade Sanderson, and Minister for Fisheries, Don Punch, announced today that the WA Government will protect Exmouth Gulf, Ningaloo with important conservation measures. These commitments include new conservation reserves in areas where major industrial developments have been proposed. 

In particular, the Government has committed to creating a class A reserve in the Qualing Pool area, proposed location of the Gascoyne Gateway port, and a marine park at the eastern side of the gulf adjacent to where K+S has proposed a massive salt production facility. 

Protect Ningaloo Director, Paul Gamblin, said, “This is a major step forward for the conservation of Exmouth Gulf, Ningaloo. We commend the Government for committing to protect areas of Exmouth Gulf threatened by inappropriate development. The McGowan Government’s position clearly signals the end to a series of controversial industrial projects proposed for Exmouth Gulf.  Common sense is sometimes hard-won but today it has prevailed for Exmouth Gulf.”

The Government’s announcement was in response to the WA Environmental Protection Authority’s recent assessment of Exmouth Gulf where it recognised the Gulf’s unique values of global significance, growing pressures (including from industrial proposals), and called for protection of key values as a high priority. 

“With today’s announcement, the contest between heavy industry and conservation has been resolved in favour of the area’s world-class environment and sustainable jobs. This moment must mark the shift from the constant threat posed by industrial development in Exmouth Gulf to the long overdue opportunity to protect the area and better manage the pressures we all know it is under,” said Mr Gamblin.

“Tens of thousands of people have taken a stand for Exmouth Gulf and their efforts have been rewarded. The battle for Exmouth Gulf shows that the community knows that we’re pushing nature to the brink and we need to be much smarter about how we manage our environment.”

Denise Fitch, Chair of Cape Conservation Group, Exmouth, said, “After such a tough campaign, we’re just thrilled that the Government has stepped up to protect what we feared we’d lose forever. The campaign to stop industrialisation of Exmouth Gulf has been strongly supported by local people from the beginning. Exmouth Gulf is a special place to locals and the vast majority of people feel a strong sense of obligation to protect it and don’t want it industrialised. There are lots of big smiles and excited waving all around Exmouth today!”

Paul Gamblin said, “The community now has the opportunity to participate in the creation of long-overdue conservation areas, so future generations can still enjoy what we do now at Exmouth Gulf. This will complement the famed Ningaloo park system that is such a source of pride, enjoyment and economic bounty for the region. We look forward to participating in this process and ensuring First Nations people, the broader community and science guide the discussions, and that the important values of Exmouth Gulf are protected.”

Notes to editors:

The EPA assessment was triggered in August, 2020 by the WA Minister for Environment in response to a series of major industrial development proposals for the gulf: Gascoyne Gateway Ltd deepwater port, K+S salt production facility and the Subsea 7 pipeline fabrication facility (subsequently withdrawn).

In August 2021, the EPA released its strategic review of the potential cumulative impacts of proposed activities and developments on the environmental, social and cultural values of Exmouth Gulf.

Exmouth Gulf is also a crucial part of the Ningaloo Reef ecosystem which is why the United Nations recommended that the Australian Government include Exmouth Gulf in the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage area.