Wednesday, February 22, 2012

$1m Refurbishment at Iconic Kimberley Coast Retreat

SOLAR power, handmade timber furnishings, ocean and earth colour themes, a custom built boat, unique ‘Outback bar’, and a new jetty to work around the massive 7 meter tides are just some of the recent upgrades at the exclusive Kimberley Coastal Camp in the far north Kimberley of WA. 
Following its sale in late 2010, over $1m has already been spent on upgrades at the luxury wilderness retreat with more to be expected in coming years.
In keeping with the rustic yet refined theme of Kimberley Coastal Camp, furniture has been handmade in the South West of WA by local craftsmen. “A lot of thought has gone into each and every decision on this project”, commented manager Kevin Dean. “If it’s not unique, then it’s not for us”. 
The new solar power system produces over 80% of the camp’s daily power and repeat guests will notice the absent hum of the diesel powered generator. What more can be said about an Outback bar? “I guess you’ll have to see for yourself on that one” said Kevin.
Kimberley Coastal Camp’s reputation for unparalleled hospitality remains unchanged, with a high staff to guest ratio of 1 staff member to a maximum 3 guests. All inclusive packages at Kimberley Coastal Camp start from $2594 per person for 2 nights and guests can choose to spend their days viewing some of the world’s oldest rock art - Gwion Gwion, or the more recent Wandjina rock art, bushwalking, fishing, birdwatching, mudcrabbing, or just relaxing in the peaceful surrounds of the Admiralty Gulf. Packages include transfers from one of 4 Kimberley locations, meals, beverages, accommodation, all activities and a scenic flight over the Mitchell Falls.
Kimberley Coastal Camp is open from late March to October each year. 
Telephone: 0417 902 006 Email: 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Indigenous vision for Kimberley irks Greens

Andrew Burrell   The Australian
February 11, 2012 12:00AM

Derby Shire president Elsia Archer says the town is desperate for a developer to build a port to service export industries. Picture: Colin Murty Source: The Australian

FORMER ALP national president Warren Mundine and wealthy Perth dealmaker John Poynton are behind a plan to promote indigenous investment by building a $600 million port near the Kimberley town of Derby to service the massive offshore oil and gas industry.

But the plan could spark a fresh stoush with green groups over the industrialisation of the Kimberley, which boasts vast unexplored deposits of coal, bauxite, uranium and iron ore that could one day be shipped out through a new port.

A supply base at Point Torment, 30km north of Derby, would be aimed initially at servicing Woodside Petroleum's planned $40 billion Browse liquefied natural gas project near Broome, which has attracted opposition from environmentalists who say the Kimberley should remain undeveloped.

West Australian Greens MP Robin Chapple said any development at Point Torment, which he described as a pristine piece of coastline, would be "another nail in the coffin for the Kimberley".

Mr Chapple called on West Australian Premier Colin Barnett to reject the plan. "It flies in the face of what the Premier has said -- that we wouldn't have any further industrialisation of the Kimberley," he said.

Mr Barnett has expressed support for a supply port to service the LNG industry at Point Torment, saying it should not be built at Broome because of the need to preserve the town's tourism industry.

He told The Weekend Australian the government had held talks with firms with petroleum interests in the Browse Basin, off the Kimberley coast, to determine their interest in using Point Torment, but "in reality it will be a commercial decision which drives future development".

Leading Perth-based investment bank Azure Capital, which is run by Mr Poynton, is behind the Point Torment plan. It is understood a Malaysian investment consortium has expressed an interest in helping to develop such a project.

The plan is being driven by an Azure director, indigenous leader Clinton Wolf, and forms part of the bank's efforts to identify investment opportunities that would benefit Aborigines and involve them as shareholders.

A company called Point Torment Supply Base has been set up to examine the viability of building the facility. The directors are listed as Mr Mundine, Mr Poynton, Mr Wolf and fellow Azure Capital director Simon Price.

Mr Wolf said the plan was at a preliminary stage and would only go ahead if it was economically viable and was supported by traditional owners and other stakeholders.

But he said talks would be held soon to outline the proposal and get feedback from key players.

Mr Mundine, who chairs the Australian Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, said he believed a new supply base and port facility at Point Torment could help the development of the Kimberley's huge mineral reserves.

He became a director because he wanted to ensure that any development benefited Aborigines. "This is about closing the gap, it's about Aboriginal people having skin in the game," he said. "This type of project needs to go ahead otherwise you will keep people in poverty."

He said the Kimberley was bigger than most European countries and that Australia's environmental laws were strong enough to ensure responsible development.

Shire of Derby president Elsia Archer said the town was desperate for a developer to build a port, which could also be used for the region's live cattle exports.

A WA government report in 2005 identified Point Torment as a suitable site for heavy industry, suggesting it could be home to an alumina refinery, which would be underpinned by bauxite mining on the Mitchell Plateau in the northern Kimberley. It said the West Kimberley had deposits of diamonds, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, silver, nickel, uranium, coal, tin, mineral sands and onshore petroleum.

Oil company Buru Energy recently announced a major discovery in the Canning Basin area of the Kimberley, prompting WA Resources Minister Norman Moore to say last month he expected an exploration surge. But the viability of a supply base at Point Torment will be linked to whether Woodside and other LNG companies, including Shell and Japan's Inpex, support it.

There is speculation that Shell plans to use ports in Broome and Darwin to support its Prelude LNG project, while Inpex is said to have settled on Darwin.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tony Burke: man in the hot seat


Tony Bourke
Seen here in the west Kimberley, Environment Minister Tony Burke could be caught between a rock and a hard place with some of his pending decisions. Picture: Vanessa Hunter Source: The Australian
SWIRLING around the remote islands of King Sound on the Buccaneer Archipelago, powerful 12m tides create the Kimberley coastline's horizontal waterfalls, dotting the waters with perilous whirlpools that can sink the foolhardy and the unprepared.
Navigated properly, the currents provide an ocean jet stream that has been used for generations to help speed travellers towards their chosen destination.
The region is a favourite place for federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, who last year declared the west Kimberley a National Heritage area. He has shed blood on the Mayala people's sacred ground trekking barefoot over the rocky islands that help create the raging tidal flows.
The Kimberley coast, with its mix of natural beauty, indigenous aspiration, mineral riches and latent danger, is a fitting metaphor for the challenges facing Burke as a series of long-running conservation campaigns comes to a head this year, while the nation's mining boom continues to build.
Two significant reforms started under the Howard government - the Murray-Darling Basin plan and protection of commonwealth waters covering an area bigger than the continent - will reach their conclusion before mid-year.
A new peace appears to be within reach to stop logging in Tasmania's old-growth forests, widely regarded as the Middle East conflict of Australia's conservation politics. Success or failure will be known by June.
Alarm from the Paris-based World Heritage Committee has supercharged demands for action to safeguard the Great Barrier Reef from increased shipping.
And Burke has declared his intention to follow up the west Kimberley national heritage listing with a World Heritage nomination for Cape York by February next year.
"It is potentially an historic agenda for the nation," says Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Don Henry. "We have a coincidence of major issues all coming into a decision-making frame this year."
In addition, Burke is at the centre of a political storm over the potential impact of coal-seam gas production on underground water supplies. And he has provoked a possible High Court state's rights challenge from Victoria with his ban this week on summer cattle grazing in the alpine ranges.
Burke is confident the next 12 months will be his time of delivery. It will, he hopes, provide an environmental legacy for the nation and a personal legacy for his time in the environment portfolio. But some fear he has too much on his plate.
"It is a big program and this stuff is getting more complex, not less," national campaign director for the Wilderness Society Lyndon Schneiders says.
"The worst outcome would be trying to reform a little bit of everything and failing on everything, rather than delivering on three or four big issues."
Burke insists the core principles remain constant.
"It is effectively the same question," he says. "How can you make sure any developments are sustainable, sensitive to the environment and are not something we are going to look back on in 20 years' time and say, 'Why did we do that?' "
But a lot has changed since the Hawke government surfed to power 30 years ago promising to stop the Gordon below Franklin Dam in Tasmania, and later to protect Kakadu from mining.
The bruising politics of climate change has been allowed to dominate the environment debate. And the success of the Greens has left Labor split between competing for the support of city elites and returning to its more jobs-focused, working-class roots.
Labor still wears an environmental coat but its core message these days is jobs and economic development. The party can point to its support for the expansion of Olympic Dam, the world's largest uranium mine, to illustrate how much the Labor brand has moved on and highlight the gulf that exists between it and its quasi-coalition Greens partner.
So, on the broad suite of environmental issues coming to fruition this year, Burke's ability to hold his ground in cabinet has yet to be fully tested.
Some conflicts are already apparent. The Wilderness Society did Burke no favours this week when it injected the issue of wild rivers and a call for emergency National Heritage Listing of Cape York into the first week of the Queensland election campaign.
Burke has been engaged in sensitive talks with pro-development indigenous groups on the cape for months in a bid to negotiate a deal on heritage listing later this year. The "alarmed" response from cape development groups to the call was predictable.
"This is an appalling attempt by the Wilderness Society not only to show that they have a total disregard for the aspirations of the Cape York people, but it is one where they are determined to keep Cape York people in poverty," said Cape York Sustainable Futures, which represents indigenous mining and cattle interests.
Burke has made it known that he is sensitive to indigenous development aspirations.
"Where you have traditional owners who love the country and want to develop it, it puts a different complexion on it," he says.
But this is not a uniform view among environment groups.
"There is a whole bunch of people across the broad Left who struggle with the same issue and I understand that," Schneiders says.
"But you can wrap yourself up into a world of pain by having two standards. At the end of the day a bulldozer is a bulldozer and it doesn't really matter who is profiting from it."
Henry is on the same page.
"If there is traditional owner consent we need to be respectful of that," he says. "But the minister is still duty bound to sit down and make a decision about how a development affects the national interest of all Australians in relation to the environment of that particular site or area."
Nowhere is this issue more divisive than in Broome, where groups and families - black and white - have been split over Woodside Petroleum's plans to develop itsliquefied natural gas facilities and James Price Point. With a heritage listing in place, Burke has a direct stake in deciding whether the James Price Point project can proceed.
The project has the support of the Kimberley Land Council, but still may fail on commercial grounds with Woodside seeking to sell down its interest in the Browse Basin offshore gas field.
If it does not proceed, Burke says he will feel most for the indigenous groups who had given consent in exchange for a substantial royalty deal.
Such sentiments fuel doubts about the value of Labor's heritage agenda.
"Burke has delivered on the listing but we haven't seen what happens when he has to go head-to-head with Martin Ferguson in his own cabinet over large-scale resource extraction in the Kimberley," Schneiders says.
The Murray-Darling Basin plan has yet to officially hit Burke's desk, and given the process so far it will be a difficult job to bring it to a civilised conclusion.
In the end, Burke may decide to nominate a range of options for how water will be split between agriculture and the environment. Environmental flows would increase subject to the completion of specified capital works programs.
In Tasmania, there are signs the promise of peace is starting to fracture, with Greens leader Bob Brown encouraging protesters back into the forest and loggers threatening to walk away.
"The jury is still out," Schneiders says. "We will have a much better picture if Burke has managed to pull off a miracle in Tasmania in six months' time."
The same is true with offshore bioregional mapping of commonwealth waters, where Burke has elected to declare all protected zones around the nation at the same time later this year.
There are more immediate concerns over the threat that increased shipping poses to the Great Barrier Reef. Expansion of Gladstone Harbour to enable an east-coast LNG export hub is only the start of a projected shipping boom, with new ports and port expansions slated along the Queensland coastline.
"It is the right time to sit back and have a look at the development pressures and their impacts on the Great Barrier Reef as a whole," Henry says. "If you just look at individual proposals, whether it is gas industrialisation at Gladstone or proposals for a coal mine or a coal port, we might miss the big picture impact of them all put together."
Burke says this is already in place. And he is determined to extend his powers to consider shipping numbers, speed and where they wait offshore.
"I won't be approving anything unless I am satisfied that the reef is being appropriately protected," he says. "As a general principle I fail to see how you can you can have an expansion of any port where vessels will be going through a World Heritage area without those shipping movements being significant to any approval."
Few people doubt Burke's good intentions. But Henry says time is running out.
"As the mining boom picks up, we are probably finding we have less time to find solutions than we thought," Henry says. "It is the right time to make decisions."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mining Boom Takes Its Toll on Australian Wilderness

Holly Alsop
London based writer and Science Editor
The Huffington Post

Pristine regions of Australia are under threat as mining companies push to expand, once again creating uproar from environmentalists. The area now under fire is theCape York Peninsula in far North Queensland, a region well-known for its vast, untouched wilderness and a popular tourist destination among travellers.
Prominent environment group, The Wilderness Societyhas lodged an application for an emergency heritage listing to be placed on the region in a bid to slow mining permit approval. The Cape York Peninsula has been under threat from destructive expansion for years as a result of its rich resources and the discovery of bauxite, coal, kaolin and sand which have made the region a premier target for mining corporations. There are now six new mining permits under application for the peninsula and there is growing concern about the future of the environment.
The Wilderness Society is urging the federal government to take action as the new mines would result in the destruction of over 45,000 hectares of native forest and grassland.
Despite the lobby group's attempt to gain emergency heritage listing, Australia's Environment Minister Tony Burke claims the title is rare and even if it is approved there is little that can be done to shut down mining in the region altogether. Concerns from Queensland residents however are prevalent with a moratorium being passed in January this year that prevents coal seam gas mining in other parts of the state. The boom in mining in Australia has increased significantly over the years with an unprecedented level of development in the Cape York Peninsula.
The new permit applications are merely an addition to the numerous mines under construction throughout the resource-rich nation. Regardless of attempts to be environmentally conscious, and with aims to protect the unique flora and fauna, the Australian economy relies heavily on mining productivity. There is no denying that governments are torn between the immediate profitability of mining and the long-term benefits of investing in eco-tourism. In 2010 the Western Australian government proposed the development of a new marine park in Camden Sound, a premier humpback whale calving ground and resource rich coastline. The guidelines in the proposal however, still allowed the transfer of machinery and tankers through the park along with extensive deep-sea drilling resulting in massive financial gain but huge environmental loss.
The Wilderness Society have been consistent in their use of lobbying tactics to enforce protection for Australia's unique environment yet with legislation differing across state governments it is difficult to predict the future of the Cape York Peninsula in the North and Camden Sound in the West.