In the iconic Kimberley region of West Australia one of Australia’s biggest recent environmental battlegrounds has emerged in the red cliffs and turquoise waters of James Price Point, about 20 km north of Broome. This is a battle that might ultimately be won in the investor board rooms rather than on the front lines of blockades.
The Browse Basin gas hub development has stoked up so much opposition on so many fronts that many investors are now asking if the project is still economically viable, or if in fact Woodside’s ‘social licence’ to proceed has disappeared in the red dust that graces the Kimberley coastline.
Australian business is all too familiar with the impact strident community opposition can have on controversial major projects, yet some large corporations and investors continue to discount the importance of maintaining their social licence and protecting the environment.
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Australia’s biggest proposed industrial development is looking on increasingly shaky and unsecured ground, with Woodside this week announcing it was asking the Federal Government for a year-long extension on making a final investment decision on its contentious Kimberley gas plant.
That comes less than two weeks after Western Australian Supreme Court Chief Justice Wayne Martin handed the James Price Point gas project its biggest setback by ruling that the WA Government had acquired the land illegally.
The Chief Justice found that the government had botched its rushed attempt to compulsorily acquire the land 60 kilometres north of tourist gateway Broome after negotiations between the government, Woodside and the Kimberley Land Council stalled last year.
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