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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts

Kimberley Strategic Assessment; National Heritage Assessment of the Kimberley

E&OE Transcript
ABC north west Western Australia
Rural report from the KLC Indigenous ranger forum, Home Valley Station
14 April 2010

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REPORTER: Here's what Peter Garrett had to say about the possibility of the James Price Point gas hub proceeding under his watch as Federal Environment Minister.

GARRETT: The whole purpose of going through a site selection process and having a strategic assessment is so that we don't have a whole series of ad hoc developments taking place up and down the Kimberley coast. So we recognise that it's got very high cultural and environmental values. But the assessment will be an extremely thorough one. It will take into account not only the strategic assessment process that's under way, but also any views that are expressed to us by community, or by traditional owners, by scientists and others in respect of the advice that I finally receive as minister.

It's really important for people to know that as Environment Minister I will set the bar as high as I think it needs to be set to protect areas that are as important environmentally and culturally as the Kimberley is. But I will not take a view about any project until all the advice comes to me and until the process itself is finally concluded and I start to consider what decision I may or may not make.

The fact is that there's a very broad community of interest working here in the Kimberley with Indigenous people. There are a number of people doing good work here, and there are a number of groups who've been involved working productively and cooperatively with both traditional owners, communities and the KLC.

And what's important is that anybody who comes into this region comes in respecting the fact that Indigenous people have strong existing and ongoing cultural links that are absolutely critical and vital, not only to respect but to work with.

REPORTER: Given that Peter Garrett is also the Federal Heritage Minister, the issue of the Kimberley's proposed heritage listing was also raised.

GARRETT: If, eventually, the advice comes to me from the Heritage Council that the Kimberley should go on the National Heritage List, and I agree with that advice and it does go on the National Heritage List, then whilst that doesn't affect any of the existing activities that are being undertaken right across the Kimberley, it will add an extra layer of protection, because that then means that, under the national environment legislation, the heritage values of the Kimberley, as identified by being put on that list, can be taken into account if there are any proposed developments which have impacts on matters of national environment significance or matters of heritage significance as well.

It's really important to recognise that the National Heritage List is a list that identifies places that have got recognised values, and all of the existing frameworks of state laws and local government laws, planning instruments, native title, and so on and so forth, stays in place as it should do. But the National Heritage List is us recognising our places which have got very, very high cultural, natural and heritage values.

REPORTER: Minister, I've been speaking with a number of pastoralists over the last month or so since there heritage issue moved along a bit further, and they have a number of concerns just regarding consultation. Do you think they have a right to be concerned with that whole process?

GARRETT: Look, what I would say is that we will have a consultation process which is thorough, which ensures that everybody gets an opportunity to be fully informed, and to have their viewpoints heard. And we've been through this process in other parts of Australia, and there are challenges in remote areas where perhaps not everybody gets the information at the same time. But by the time the process is finished, they have my undertaking that there will be an absolutely full and comprehensive consultation process.

I won't take any steps in relation to this matter until I'm absolutely certain that that's happened.

REPORTER: That's Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, speaking from the Kimberley Land Council's ranger forum which kicked off yesterday at Home Valley Station.

And just a reminder that there is a meeting at Birdwood Downs Station that will touch on the heritage issue, and anyone who would like to know more - to have more information about the heritage listing process, is welcome to attend. It's happening at Birdwood Downs Station near Derby this Friday at 9am.

COMPERE: And we seem to have lost Alex there. We'll get the rest of that information to you as soon as we can.

Thank you very much to Alex Hyman, the rural reporter for the Kimberley and, indeed, the north-west today.

[ENDS]

Commonwealth of Australia