Murujuga traditional custodian Raelene Cooper has condemned federal approvals granted to Woodside on Friday night for seismic blasting and drilling for their Burrup Hub mega-project as a “breathtaking regulatory scandal” just two months after the Federal Court threw out previous seismic blasting approval due to inadequate consultation with Ms Cooper.
Late on Friday 1 December, the federal offshore oil and gas regulator NOPSEMA approved Woodside’s Environment Plans to start drilling and seismic blasting at the Scarborough gas field from Saturday 2 December, with shipping data confirming Woodside already had a ship positioned in the area ready to begin blasting.
The fresh approval comes after a Federal Court decision on September 28 overturned Woodside’s previous NOPSEMA approval due to inadequate cultural heritage consultation with Ms Cooper.
NOPSEMA has now approved a seismic blasting Environment Plan resubmitted by Woodside after just one further meeting with Ms Cooper on October 4, which was aborted halfway through after Ms Cooper was made aware that Woodside had shared sensitive cultural matters with other parties.
Ms Cooper has previously criticised Woodside’s consultation as “arrogant, disrespectful and at times hostile” during an ongoing lobbying campaign from the gas industry aiming to rewrite regulations that require companies like Woodside and Santos to consult with traditional custodians about their development plans.
Ms Cooper has outlined a number of facts about the history of Woodside's consultation with her and her people about the Burrup Hub, including a lack of consultation when Woodside destroyed hundreds of ancient rock carvings to build existing Burrup Hub gas plants, gas clauses in industrial agreements and Woodside’s initial refusal to meet with Ms Cooper or recognise her as a ‘Relevant Person’ for the purposes of consultation.
Mardudhunera woman and Murujuga traditional custodian Raelene Cooper said on Monday morning:
“I was informed late on Friday night that Woodside has been given new approvals by NOPSEMA to commence drilling and to start seismic blasting this weekend. I have also seen confirmation that Woodside’s blasting vessel was already in position on Friday ready to begin blasting our sacred Sea Country.
"Just two months after the Federal Court threw out Woodside’s last approval, NOPSEMA waving through new approvals on a Friday night is a breathtaking regulatory scandal that illustrates a system completely captive to Woodside’s fossil fuel interests.
"I am heartbroken, devastated and furious that our governments continue to allow Woodside’s Burrup Hub to destroy our sacred rock art, our songlines and our precious marine sanctuaries.
"Our majestic whales carry the stories of our people, carry our songlines from one part of Country to another, they are documented on our munda (our rocks), they are our dreaming stories that I hold. I have warned previously that the risks and the impacts of such destructive activities will be life threatening for these precious species.
"Since the Federal Court threw out their last approval, Woodside has been gaslighting the government, the legal system and the Australian public by making misleading claims about their consultation with me and other traditional custodians of Murujuga. The truth is that Woodside’s approach to consultation with me has been arrogant and disrespectful from day one.
"A week after the last Federal Court decision, I was made aware that Woodside had shared certain very sensitive cultural matters with other parties ahead of a meeting on October 4. This was done without telling me in advance or seeking my permission. I do not trust Woodside to do the right thing with culturally sensitive information.
"State and federal governments have brought nothing but chaos and division with their coloniser laws that continue to oppress First Nations people and our connection to Country. We have given the information, we have told them our culturally significant sacred stories, and yet still NOPSEMA and the state and federal governments allow for industry to continue their violence, their genocide and to commit murderous actions against First Nations people.
"These destructive atrocities still continue in our nation today and I will continue to call it out. As traditional custodians, our obligation and responsibility is to protect land and sea. As First Nations people, we are forced to fight to maintain our people’s living culture and the conviction that we hold on behalf of all humanity and all living creatures. The government has lied to the Australian people and they have lied to the First Nations people of this country.”
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