A gas terminal planned for Australia’s north-west coast is not compatible with tourism in the Kimberley and would damage the region’s international appeal, a Curtin University report says.
The report found the world’s largest humpback whale breeding sanctuary would be seriously disturbed by Woodside Petroleum’s proposed liquefied natural gas port near Broome. It said the dollar benefit of the whale-watching industry outweighed the financial and employment gains from the development.
”Oil and gas development would have significant detrimental social, environmental and economic impacts,” the report said. The 10 tourism operators around Broome that account for 35 per cent of its economic activity would be ”severely damaged”.
The West Australian government has been pushing for the establishment of a big gas terminal in Broome, which would be built by Woodside Petroleum, in partnership with BHP Billiton, BP, Shell and Chevron.
The controversial proposal, yet to be approved by the federal government, would allow at least $30 billion worth of liquefied natural gas from the Browse Basin to be processed in Australia before being shipped mostly overseas.
Woodside Petroleum said its gas port would ”add to the diversity and strength of the Kimberley economy”.
Other possible sites for the gas hub, including an already industrialised site in the Pilbara, or an offshore plant, could not compete with Broome on cost or environmental grounds, the company said.
”Woodside is about to embark on its own social impact assessment as part of its ongoing approvals process,” a spokesman said.
A report last year by the finance consultants JPMorgan found that areas other than the whale-breeding zone would also be suitable for the gas hub.