DINOSAURS and mosquitoes were the only certainties yesterday in an escalating face-off between police, protesters and politicians over Woodside Petroleum’s planned $40 billion gas hub development near Broome.
Businessman Geoffrey Cousins took a swipe at federal Environment Minister Tony Burke for failing to act to protect prehistoric footprints from Woodside’s near-shore drilling.
And thick clouds of mosquitoes due to the late arrival of dragonflies posed an immediate, uncomfortable threat to heavy police reinforcements manning an outback booze-bus on a wide red stretch of road far from town.
The heavy police presence and lack of action led state Opposition Leader Mark McGowan to accuse Premier Colin Barnett of overreacting.
Mr Barnett told state parliament neither he nor Police Minister Rob Johnson played a role in the decision to send a large number of police to Broome.
Kimberley police superintendent Mick Sutherland said his priority was to keep the roads open and Woodside’s heavy machinery flowing to the construction site.
“I live here and at the end of the day this is about Woodside and James Price Point; it is not about the police,” he said. “My objective at the moment is to keep the road clear and that is it.”
But Perth-based police confirmed reinforcements estimated at 150 officers had been sent in anticipation of a repeat of the Heirisson Island confrontation when police stormed an indigenous protest camp near the city centre in March.
They are waiting for an invitation from council rangers to assist in an eviction when a verbal instruction to move the camps expires tomorrow.
But Shire president Graeme Campbell said yesterday the process may take longer than expected if normal procedure is followed and a written demand to leave is made.
For Mr Cousins and Save The Kimberley director Mark Jones the need for action of another kind to protect the dinosaur footprint fossils was urgent.
Mr Cousins said the company’s work program and Mr Burke’s lack of action was “unconscionable”.
Mr Burke said he had been advised the work that was happening offshore was not having any impact on the footprints and was therefore outside his powers.
“I will end up with decisions that go well beyond the heritage values in terms of the environmental assessment itself,” he said.