On 7 December 2020, Subsea 7, the global oil and gas services company that proposed to build a large pipeline fabrication facility and towing operation in Exmouth Gulf, announced it was withdrawing its plans.
This is a major victory for Protect Ningaloo, the local community and for ocean lovers around the world. Our campaign started in Exmouth, driven by concerned locals, three years ago. While still deeply connected to the town and the region, the campaign quickly grew across WA and Australia, and it also has international supporters. Tens of thousands of people signed our letters to the WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and members of parliament, shared our social media posts, bought a t-shirt from our market stalls or proudly displayed our bumper stickers – every bit helped and we are so grateful for your support.
August 2020: The WA Environment Minister, Stephen Dawson, put on hold the Subsea 7 proposal. The Minister also instructed the WA EPA to undertake a broad assessment of the Gulf. This review will assess the environmental, cultural and social values of Exmouth Gulf, and determine the cumulative impacts of current and proposed activities and developments in the Gulf. This is due in mid-2021.
August 2020: The Federal Government announced it had removed the vast areas off Ningaloo, Shark Bay and the Abrolhos Islands that it had nominated in May 2020 for new oil and gas exploration. More than 30,000 people had signed our letter calling for the Federal Government to spare these areas from the impacts and risks of oil and gas development. Thank you for acting to help achieve this great result!
The latest: A company called Gascoyne Gateway wants to build a major deepwater port near Exmouth. Yes, you read that correctly! The project would involve the construction of a causeway and pylon wharf about 1km long, and dredging of seabed habitat. It would attract massive ships (such as mega cruise liners, oil and gas support vessels, bulk cargo carriers and fuel tankers) deep into the Gulf. The more we learn about this proposal, the more concerned we are about it – and so are scientists, Exmouth locals and tourist operators. You can find out more here about the wildlife and habitats at risk.
Meanwhile, directly across the Gulf from Exmouth in a remote area that is completely undeveloped, a global multinational called K+S Group proposes to construct a large salt production and shipping operation which poses risks to the significant environmental values of this area.
This all means that despite the amazing news about Subsea 7, our work isn’t over, but it’s heartening to know that for now, our voices are being heard.
Because of your efforts, 2021 holds much opportunity for Exmouth Gulf-Ningaloo to be a beacon of sustainability, showing how the protection of the area’s magnificent nature is good for the community and jobs.
From the bottom of our oceans, thank you!
Please stay in touch. You can sign up for our updates here (don’t worry, we won’t inundate you!)
Image: Heron Point, Exmouth Gulf. Andre Rerekura
Protect Ningaloo is a grassroots initiative by ordinary people who are inspired by one of the world’s last great places and want to protect it.
Who are we?
We are supported by an alliance of community groups and charities. Cape Conservation Group is a volunteer organization based in Exmouth. The Conservation Council of WA is the state’s premier environmental NGO. The Australian Marine Conservation Society is the nation’s peak marine charity. All of these groups were members of the historic Save Ningaloo Reef campaign that ran from 2000-2005. We’re supported by scientists, researchers, tourism operators, rec-fishers, birders and enthusiastic amateur nature lovers from all over the world. We’re short of time and we’re in the fight of our lives but we hope you’ll feel the passion and help us however you can.
What do we want?
We want to put the welfare of the Reef, the Range and the Gulf first in all development decisions. We’re determined to protect and preserve the extraordinary ecosystems that make up the Ningaloo Region. But to do that we need to restore some precautionary principles to coastal planning locally. We need to tell the WA and Commonwealth governments that Ningaloo’s Nursery needs protection not industrialisation. We want to celebrate a wonder of the world and save it from degradation. The only way we’ll achieve that is to get the news out and rally the passion of people like you. Protect Ningaloo supports a sustainable, creative future for the region.
Exmouth Gulf is a rare and precious estuarine system in Australia’s north west. Surrounded by mangroves, white beaches and rugged ranges, it’s home to hundreds of incredible species of sea life. Still unspoilt by development, it’s crucial to the health of nearby Ningaloo Reef, one of the world’s last healthy coral reefs. Ningaloo Reef and the Cape Range are already on the World Heritage List. But the IUCN says that the Gulf has World Heritage values too and needs more protection. Scientists regard the Reef and the Gulf as critically interconnected systems. The Gulf is where the fish, sharks and crabs are born.
It’s where humpback whales come to give birth and nurse their calves. It’s a playground for humans, too, supporting the sustainable eco-tourism hub of Exmouth. This is where you go to see dugongs, manta rays and leaping whales. But now oil and gas players want to open the Gulf to industry. Proposals that would never be contemplated at the Reef are now being actively promoted for Exmouth Gulf.
New threat from oil and gas
The Shire of Exmouth is considering planning amendments that open the door to industry in Exmouth Gulf. Until recently this was considered unthinkable. Subsea 7, a multinational company, wants to build an oil and gas pipe assembly plant and launch site at Heron Point, a secluded bit of beach and bushland in the southern part of the Gulf.
Subsea 7’s proposed heavy-engineering project would involve the construction of a 380-metre-long launchway across an undeveloped beach at Heron Point, impacting crucial coastal and nearshore ecosystem processes. Ocean-going tugs would tow large pipelines (up to 10 km long) up the Gulf, dragging hundreds of ballast chains along the seabed (an area up to 1000 football ovals in size), potentially disturbing and damaging sensitive habitat including sponges and corals. The pipelines would then be towed through the world-famous Ningaloo Marine Park and World Heritage area. To construct and launch these pipelines, over 1.7 million square metres of natural bushland would be bulldozed to make way for two 10 km railway bundle tracks, service roads and fabrication buildings
“I’m proud to continue supporting the protectors of our precious Ningaloo coastline. If we don’t act NOW, it will be too late. Make sure you tell your grandchildren that YOU stood up for country!”
“Ningaloo Reef is a miracle and a gift. It’s one of the last great wild places left on earth, so why would anyone put Ningaloo’s nursery at risk? Don’t let it happen. Protect Ningaloo!”
“Australians love Ningaloo and they’ll fight for it. 100,000 of them proved that back in 2003 and they made history. Once they hear what’s being planned for Ningaloo’s Nursery they’ll rise up and do it again.”
Australia’s most famous author, and listed as a Living Treasure by the National Trust, Tim Winton has been a conservation advocate for 25 years, and was prominent in the historic Save Ningaloo Campaign in the 2000s.
“I’m proud to support these passionate Australians fighting for a place we all love. I hope you’ll help them out to Protect Ningaloo and save Exmouth Gulf.”