The Pinnacles, within the Nambung National Park, near the town of Cervantes in WA. A petroleum exploration permit has been granted over an area that includes the striking formations. A Petroleum exploration permit has been granted over The Pinnacles – described by tourism authorities as “world famous” and one of WA’s great natural attractions.
The Pinnacles comprise thousands of striking limestone formations, each up to 5m high, across 190ha in the Nambung National Park 200km north of Perth, attracting 250,000 visitors a year. The formations stand in “stark relief against a backdrop of constantly shifting sand dunes to create an eerie landscape of ever-changing moods”, according to The Pinnacles Visitor Centre. But the Conservation Council WA says the landscape is under threat after a gas fracking exploration permit was granted to Norwest Energy by the WA Department of Mines and Petroleum. The area covered by Norwest Energy’s new petroleum exploration permit, which includes the Pinnacles (Nambung National Park), Jurien Bay, Green Head, Cervantes and Lancelin. The 649sq km permit also covers tourist towns Jurien Bay, Green Head, Cervantes and Lancelin, four nature reserves and part of the Mount Lesueur National Park. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the controversial practice of obtaining gas by drilling wells and injecting fluid to shatter rock deep beneath the earth’s surface. “It’s astonishing that an exploration permit has been granted over communities and tourism icons with no community consultation and no environmental assessment,” Conservation Council WA spokeswoman Chantelle Roberts said.
DMP land access spokeswoman Beverley Bower said “while the company’s title area may overlap sensitive areas such as nature reserves, town sites or heritage listed areas, this in no way guarantees a right of entry”. She said drilling, including the company’s plans for an exploration well in 2018, “will be subject to strict, multi-agency approvals regarding environmental, health and safety”. NorWest Energy chief executive Peter Munachen said he was interested in the eastern and southern edges of the permit area and had “no intention of fracking near The Pinnacles”. “The answer is point blank, full stop, no discussion: we would never drill or frack or do any exploration at The Pinnacles. Those sacrosanct areas, we just won’t be going there. We’re not stupid, we’re not going to … tamper with that,” he said. Mr Munachen said any fracking would be “well away from those pristine, beautiful sites and we will work hard with the community so they can see the benefit”. But Ms Roberts said: “If the State Government did not intend for gas companies to be drilling and fracking in national parks and towns, they should not have granted this exploration permit.” Angry locals attended community meetings this week, including Jurien Bay resident and war veteran Jim Clarke who said fracking was “nothing but a blatant money-grab by multinationals and a desecration of our land”. The fracking debate is raging in the Kimberley after traditional owners agreed to allow Buru Energy to begin exploration east of Broome. Originally published as Tourist landmark in gas fracking zone