A week before the WA Court of Appeal is due to hear Richard Hunter’s challenge to Woodside’s works on James Price Point, the Minister for Planning has suddenly amended the local planning instrument to authorise Woodside to carry on works even if its planning approval is invalid.
Mr Hunter has said that he will continue on with his fight in the Court of Appeal, and is considering also challenging the validity of the Minister’s changes to the planning instrument.
Richard Hunter’s solicitor Josie Walker of the Environmental Defender’s Office says that it is an improper use of the Minister for Planning’s powers to re-write a planning instrument solely for the purpose of influencing the outcome of Court proceedings.
“The state government obviously has very little confidence in the validity of the approval, since it has taken this extraordinary step of making a change to a planning instrument which only takes effect if the approval is found to be invalid.”
Goolarabooloo law boss Richard Hunter commenced a challenge to Woodside’s works on James Price Point on 28 May 2012.
The works are related to the proposed Browse LNG Hub and include major earthworks and geotechnical investigations. The most recently approved works would allow Woodside to go into areas which were off-limits under the previous approval, include drilling in the dunes south of James Price Point, in an area known to be highly culturally sensitive.
Three weeks ago, Woodside agreed not to commence drilling works, and to stay out of the most sensitive areas until the Court of Appeal makes its final decision.
That agreement still stands. Mr Hunter alleges that the approval granted to Woodside in February this year were invalid because the Kimberley Joint Development Assessment Panel (KJDAP) made the decision without waiting to receive an official report from the Shire of Broome.
The Shire of Broome voted not to send its official report to the KJDAP because it said there had not been enough time for the community or the Shire to properly consider the issues.
Mr Hunter is being represented by the Environmental Defender’s Office of Western Australia.
LNG World News Staff, June 26, 2012; Image: wa.gov