Barrow Island considered for National Heritage listing
Humane Society International has nominated Western Australia’s Barrow Island, one of Australia’s oldest and most valuable biodiversity conservation reserves, for protection on the National Heritage list managed by the Commonwealth Government.
The nomination comes at a time when a global oil and gas industry consortium is hoping to construct a major gas processing facility on the island which was classified as a nature reserve in 1910.
Barrow Island is a place of rugged beauty, with its white dunes and beaches, turquoise waters, red sand, wave beaten cliffs, spinifex grasslands, mangrove communities, colourful reefs, and underground caves lined with spectacular stalactites and stalagmites
Being the largest island in Australia with no introduced pest species, Barrow Island is referred to as ‘Australia’s Ark’. The island is a haven for rare and threatened animals; many that have gone extinct on the mainland. It is also one of the most important nesting sites for flatback and green turtles in the world.
“Barrow Island’s outstanding natural values are unparalleled anywhere else in Australia. It deserves a place on the National Heritage List”, said Nicola Beynon, HSI’s Wildlife and Habitats Program Manager.
Chevron Australia, Shell and ExxonMobil (the Gorgon Venture) are currently seeking approval from Federal Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell, to establish the gas processing facility.
The Western Australian Government has given the Gorgon Venture ‘in principal’ approval for the restricted use of the island for the development, despite clear warnings from their Conservation Commission of Western Australia and the Environmental Protection Authority, that it could be devastating for the island’s unique natural values.
“HSI has asked Senator Campbell not to give the development the go ahead. We hope our nomination will see the island given significantly greater protection instead”, said Ms Beynon.
Of grave concern is the impact the gas facility could have on the marine turtle nesting sites. A gas processing plant has already devastated the most important green turtle rookery in Peninsula Malaysia. We are also seriously concerned at the quarantine risk the facility will pose to endemic species such as the Barrow Island spectacled hare-wallaby, Barrow Island golden bandicoot, Barrow Island mouse and the Barrow Island burrowing bettong (a species extinct on the mainland).
“It would be a tragedy if Barrow Island lost its status as the largest pest free island in Australia, which could see its unique fauna follow mainland cousins to extinction”, said Ms Beynon.
A formal environmental assessment is still required by the Western Australian and Commonwealth Governments. The Gorgon Venture will release an Environmental Impact Statement in coming months.
A decision on HSI’s National Heritage nomination is expected later in 2006.