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26 August 2009 - Garrett signs off on the destruction of Barrow Island ignoring expert advice that it should have been assessed       

Garrett signs off on the destruction of Barrow Island ignoring expert advice that it should have been assessed for the National Heritage List

Sydney, 26 August 2009                                  

Humane Society International (HSI) Campaign Director, Michael Kennedy said today, that “I am deeply disappointed that Environment Minister Peter Garrett has today given the go ahead for Chevron to expand their Gorgon gas project on Barrow Island. This action merely confirms that the Government has a development at all costs mentality and continues to ignore the long-term ecological viability of this nation.”

Mr Kennedy noted with great irony, that, “In July 2004, when the Chair of the newly formed Australian Heritage Council (AHC) Tom Harley, announced the Council’s 14 priority natural areas that should be assessed for National Heritage listing, Barrow Island the only island included.”

“After an extensive review, the AHC members responsible at the time for natural area priorities (including myself) determined, through an expert workshop convened to decide Australia’s most invaluable places from a biological point of view, that Barrow Island must be on that national priority list.”

A remarkably unique and sensitive environment, Barrow Island is one of the oldest and most valuable biodiversity conservation reserves in the world. It was proclaimed a Class A Nature Reserve in 1910 and has been dubbed “Australia’s Ark” for its abundance of rare, uncommon and threatened species, many of which are extinct, or near extinction on the mainland.

Mr Kennedy continued: “In the wake of the AHC’s announced natural area priority list, and in recognition of the immense significance of Barrow Island, HSI first nominated it for inclusion on the National Heritage List in 2005. After being ignored by the Government in consecutive years, HSI again nominated Barrow Island and the neighbouring Montebello / Barrow Islands Marine Conservation Reserves in 2008, but the Government rejected its inclusion on the priority assessment list yet again.”

“It is now five years since Tom Harley’s announcement, but such an assessment is not one jot nearer – and it is now too late, even though, under the rules of the public nomination process, the proposal is still on the books. Consecutive Governments have clearly held any assessment of Barrow Island in complete abeyance for entirely political reasons, in effect corrupting a public environmental protection process in the interest of corporate profits.”

“HSI disputes that the conditions applied to the approval will make the development environmentally foolproof. It is simply unavoidable that a development of this size and nature will have devastating impacts on the island’s species and ecosystems. The recent oil spill in the North West should be taken for what it is – an ominous sign of what is bound to come.”

“There is only one way to protect Barrow Island, and that is to locate the Gorgon development on the mainland,” concluded Mr Kennedy.

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