Environmentalists have claimed another victory in their bid to protect the world-heritage listed Ningaloo area in Western Australia.
The state government has asked the Environmental Protection Authority to pause further assessments of a proposed oil and gas pipeline fabrication facility and towing operation in the nearby Exmouth Gulf until June 2021.
In the meantime, the EPA will carry out a cumulative impact study of current and proposed activity and developments in the region.
It comes just a day after the federal government opted to exclude large areas off the Ningaloo coast from potential offshore exploration and drilling.
More than 30,000 people had petitioned for a stop to oil and gas activity in the area during the consultation period.
“We think the case to stop the controversial Subsea 7 oil and gas pipeline facility dead in its tracks is clear,” Project Ningaloo director Paul Gamblin said.
“However we welcome this decision to delay the consideration of the project by at least a year while a wider assessment is undertaken because any independent scientific review would show emphatically that Exmouth Gulf should not be industrialised.”
Mr Gamblin said uncertainty remained about the area’s long-term security and little was publicly known about another proposed project identified by the government, the Gascoyne Gateway cruise and multi-use marine facility.
Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the Exmouth Gulf was under increasing pressure from a range of activities.
“Understanding any potential impacts that future developments may have on Exmouth Gulf will enable me to make an informed decision about these future proposals,” he said.
Stretching more than 300km across the WA coast and boasting one of the world’s longest near-shore reefs, Ningaloo was added to UNESCO’s world heritage list in 2011.
It is known for its annual whale shark migration and network of underground caves.
A study last year uncovered a remarkable level of biodiversity in the remote gulf, including species of sea snakes previously thought to be extinct.