The Kimberley is Australia’s wild side. Closer to Jakarta, Indonesia than to Sydney, the region is about the same size as either Japan or California.
“The Kimberley WA is one of the world’s last great wilderness areas. Covering an expanse of nearly 423,000 square kilometres and with an estimated population of just 40,000 it has fewer people per square kilometre than almost any other place on Earth.”
And 25% of the population live in Broome, which is called the Pearl of the Kimberley mainly because up until 1915, 80% of the world’s pearls came from Broome and the region. Now things have changed – natural gas, coal, diamonds are the leading exports along with a booming tourism business. And that is where are are now – interviewing a range of people and organizations that all have a common thread – protecting wilderness, culture and heritage.
But there is catch. With a $40B LNG plant proposed to be built 30 km north of town, the impact of this massive plant has the town divided. Some see this as a way to move up the ladder with better jobs, increased real estate prices and more opportunity. Others see it as massive wealth extraction and the potential for social and environmental damage which could change the culture of the region. We are talking to different groups and individuals about their views and values. And the fact that the corporate players in the LNG plant include Chevron, Exxon Mobile and Woodside, there is both excitement and fear in Broome. Groups like Environs Kimberley, The Wilderness Society and Save the Kimberley represent organized groups with specific goals and objectives around this development. And along with the Kimberley Land Council, all have common goals: to protect the land, the culture and the heritage of the Kimberley. Some are for the LNG plant, some against. You can find more by clicking their links and reading their positions.
Part of our trip here as to film the elusive snubfin dolphin, a species first identified here in 2005. We have been out in Roebuck Bay to find them and film them as part of our collaborative work with the Cetacean Research Unit from Murdoch University. We will be heading up to Kimberley Marine Research Station this weekend to continue our search for the snubfins with our Murdoch researchers.
Broome is an enigma of sorts. It has had so many personalities over the last 200 years from pearl capital of the world to major tourist center for the Kimberley to, now, the potential to be a massive LNG processing and export center. Everybody wants all of it to continue with no real change to the quality of their lives in terms of cost of living, pollution, health care and schools. And from my experience, when something this big comes into a 12,000 person town, things change forever. I am not saying what the right choice is but things will change for sure here if the LNG plant is built. The Western Australia government is behind it 100%, the corporations want it and a major portion of Broome’s citizens want it. It will be a tough choice for them.