New Threats

THE LATEST: Exmouth Gulf is still under threat from industrialisation. 

We managed to help stop Subsea 7’s oil and gas pipeline fabrication plant and towing operation but there are still two other large-scale industrial projects being developed.

Gascoyne Gateway wants to build an industrial deepwater port just south of Exmouth and on the other side of the Gulf, K+S Salt is looking to develop a massive salt production and barging operation over a conservation-significant tidal wetlands system.  Follow the above links to find out more about the threats these projects pose to the Gulf’s globally significant environment.

There is also strong concern that if either of these proposals were approved, it would likely open the door to further industrialisation of the area. 

This is a turning point for Exmouth Gulf.  It has so far escaped the rapid coastal, industrial development further north in the Pilbara, but it is now facing one industrial development proposal after another. We need to draw a line in the sand and stop these projects from coming down to the Gulf and turning it into another Port Hedland or Dampier.

 As well as the expected impacts to the environmental, cultural and social values of the area, industrialisation risks irreversible damage to the nature-based tourism brand and to existing local tourism-related businesses and jobs. 

There is an alternative path for Exmouth which secures existing tourism businesses and builds new sustainable, nature-based industries that protect and complement the region’s environmental and tourism values.

Industrialisation of the Gulf

Subsea 7, a foreign multinational corporation, is proposing a pipe fabrication and launch facility at Heron Point, near the Bay of Rest, in Exmouth Gulf.  Oil and gas pipelines 10 km long will be assembled onshore, rolled down rail lines and launched into the shallows. Tugs will haul these pipes and towheads through the intertidal zone until they float. Before and after this, though, hundreds of heavy ballast chains will hang from the pipelines. During much of the launch and some of the tow operation these will be in contact with the bottom. At Heron Point that means pavement reef, coral and sponges. Pipelines will be  towed the length of the Gulf and transit through the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Marine Park. The Shire of Exmouth has advertised changes to planning regulations to enable this proposal to proceed.

At present, there is no industrial activity on the Gulf’s shores or waters, and there’s a reason for that – until now it’s been widely agreed that this environment is too sensitive and valuable to be exposed to industry.  The activities Subsea 7 proposes are simply incompatible with the environmental values of the area.  The building of a 5.7-hectare launchway,  the scouring associated with launching and towing, potential effects of emissions and spills on nearby mangroves, industrial activity on top of subterranean cave systems – all of these bring unnecessary risks and pressures to the marine and terrestrial environment.

Why is any of this a problem?

Because the Gulf is one of the few intact coastal systems in the world.  The IUCN says it has World Heritage values. Its mangroves and shallows generate much of the marine life that replenishes nearby Ningaloo Reef – it’s Ningaloo’s nursery.  It’s also a haven for many species of endangered migratory birds as well as home to threatened or vulnerable species of turtles and sharks as well as dugongs and manta rays.  Whale sharks move through its sheltered waters and humpback whales use it as a calving ground and nursery.

It will affect local amenity and impact on nature-based tourism businesses that already operate in the Gulf.  If it goes ahead, Subsea 7’s factory, rail line and rockwall will be the first thing inbound tourists see as they fly in to Learmonth.  And this proposal will only be the beginning.  If the local Shire presses ahead with zoning changes and Subsea 7 gets approval, a whole swathe of the Gulf shore will be open to industry.  From there, there’s no turning back.  The Gulf’s values will be degraded and the vibrant and sustainable eco-tourism industry at Ningaloo will be compromised.

Where things stand

Currently the WA Environmental Protection Authority is reviewing our detailed analysis and submission that raises serious concerns about the likely impacts of Subsea 7’s proposed pipeline facility at Exmouth Gulf. Our analysis is supported by a team of experienced scientists and technical experts.

In November, 2019, the EPA also received more than 55,000 email submission letters from the community opposing this proposal, via Protect Ningaloo and our partner groups. This is a clear message that the community has major concerns about this proposal and wants the Government to protect this unique and special part of the world as a matter of urgency.

We are appealing to the WA Premier, Mark McGowan, and his Government to apply common sense to support a sustainable future for the region, with long-term jobs and economic opportunity in sectors that enhance Ningaloo’s natural assets rather than undermining them. Protect Ningaloo is calling for the public’s help to make this case and you can contact the Premier here.

 

 

 

Background

The Subsea 7 industrial pipeline fabrication proposal and the Exmouth Shire’s proposed amendments were exposed to public scrutiny by watchful locals in 2017. Subsea 7’s referral to the Western Australian EPA in October, 2017 attracted139 submissions in a week, the overwhelming majority of which opposed the development.

The proposal faced a full Public Environmental Review, the highest form of assessment available.

The nationally and internationally-important environmental values of Exmouth Gulf have also triggered an assessment by the Commonwealth Government (which the EPA will conduct on its behalf).

The EPA is also assessing the proposed rezoning of land by Exmouth Shire to accommodate the project.

Protect Ningaloo and its supporters will be building the case against this development and making sure the public is informed of developments as they arise. You can send a letter of concern to the Premier here

“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!”
– Peter Garrett

“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!”
– Peter Garrett

How can you help

 

 

Exmouth Gulf doesn’t need industrialisation.
It needs a sustainable future.