On Tuesday September 25th a public meeting was held at the Alexander Library in Perth, Western Australia. 350 people packed a 200 seat lecture theatre to hear WA author Tim Winton, and others, give their perspectives on the threats to the extraordinary values of the Cape Range - Ningaloo Reef region.

Read Tim's speech below

Dr David Sutton (University of WA) gave insights into the special values of the region and the high likelihood of it qualifying as a World Heritage area.

Dennis Beros (campaign coordinator) spoke on the threats inherent in the proposed Coal Coast Resort development.

Richard Todd (underwater cinematographer) conveyed excitement and optimism at the prospect of getting the management of this special area 'right".


Further public meetings are planned for WA.

The Next Big Thing

Tim Winton

I've always counted myself lucky to have been born and raised in WA. There are plenty like me, people whose childhoods were touched by nature. People who grew up in the open air, who saw a clean sea and a bush horizon often enough to accept them as a given. There's a song we used to sing at school in the sixties. It's by Dorothea Mackellar and if you're old enough you'll remember it. You might cringe a bit but you'll recall it. One of the verses goes I love her far horizons, I love her jewelled sea, her beauty and her terror, the wide brown land for me. And look, it has its problems as a poem and I'm not sure why the continent gets to be a girl and everything, but I never did shake off the sentiment. It gave me goosebumps as a six year old and it still does now. I believe in the emotion behind it. If you were ever going to connect with the idea of the wide brown land it was odds on to happen to you in WA. I'm not talking nationalism here, but something else, something simpler, more fundamental. It might be patriotism but not of the sort that bigots have recently resorted to, wrapping themselves in the flag.

If Australians share any kind of birthright then perhaps it's a sense of amplitude: a sense of space, physical freedom, openness, grandness of scale. We live on a big island and the island has been good to us. For my money WA is the prime bit of the island because its added isolation and low population have afforded us areas of real wilderness. A good deal of that wild country is coastal. There are still places you can go to experience Australia as it was for your great grandparents. That's an incredible, empowering thing, to feel connected to other generations. It allows you to imagine your children and theirs taking the same nourishment from the natural world. To date we can claim very little credit for being able to have these wilderness experiences because these blessings are due more to good luck than good management. Honestly we don't know how lucky we are.

Consider how exceptional it is, in global terms, to be able to step off the beach in an industrialized country, wade into the sea, put your head in the water and see a coral lump absolutely livid with fish. To have something like The Great Barrier Reef within wading distance. There's 250 kilometres of it. Think how rare it is to walk all day and perhaps the next without encountering an effluent pipe, an oil stain, a carpark, an artfully placed palm tree, or a great shimmering wall of condos. We take such experiences for granted. But the isolation that provides such landscapes and experiences also produces our great complacency. As a kid throwing craypots off the reef edge at Greenough, casting for tailor at Floreat, diving for abalone at Triggs and surfing from Esperance to Broome, I took in all that richness, all that geographical privelege, and every bit of that complacency. I thought that it would all go on forever, that the wide brown land would provide, that it was big enough to cope, that it could absorb whatever we did to it.

The things you love, just like the people you love, the places you hold sacred will eventually make some claim upon you. Nothing that's sacred comes without a sacrifice. Sadly, the only time you ever hear talk like that is just before a war. Then they're talking about the defence of woolly political concepts, ideas about nations, systems of government. How many people think as passionately as that about the ground beneath their feet, the landforms and species and habitats that have sustained them? How many of us have developed a deeper patriotism and wondered not what our island will do for us, but what we might do for our poor long-suffering island?

So many West Australians from so many different backgrounds have been to Ningaloo and seen manta rays, humpbacks, whale sharks, turtles, dugongs, birds of all kinds, enough fish to make you dizzy. For decades people have gone north as campers, anglers, divers, bushwalkers, surfers and naturalists, and we all come away with a richness of experience, something special that makes us want to return. Ordinary citizens treasure the reef. It's an icon. What makes us return, what brings people from the border and from overseas is the same thing. It's the experience of a place preserved by isolation. What people are encountering at Ningaloo is a wilderness experience. Nobody argues about its status as a gem, but many of us take it for granted and we do so at our own peril.

But there is, I believe, a gradual awakening amongst West Australians. There are more and more burrs in the comfort-blanket of our sandgroper complacency. Right along our coast, from the Bight to the Kimberley there has been a wave of concern about disastrous planning and inappropriate coastal development, and a few unlikely battles have been won by community groups speaking out, making themselves heard, saving their places from insensitive development by commercial operators. Think of Smiths Beach, and the triumph of people power at Leighton. But the major challenges still lie ahead, and of them all Ningaloo will be the big one. Maud's Landing is shaping up as the first and perhaps the most important engagement in the struggle to save the Ningaloo Reef. To secure its future and integrity. Despite the odds against democracy prevailing, the odds being habitually skewed in favour of those within corporate coffers and PR drones, I believe enough people will stir from their torpor and claim Ningaloo for the people.

Believe me, in environmental terms, Ningaloo is the Next Big Thing.
I take heart from the way in which all kinds of people, from the pierced to the pinstriped, from the blow-waved to the dread-locked, came together to save our old growth forests. This kind of communal passion, this sort of broad coalition is what will be required to secure a sustainable future for Ningaloo and the Cape Range. And I think it will happen.

The Coral Coast Resort at Maud's Landing has no place in our future. This is the same old same old. The politics and the planning are the familiar ad hoc mish-mash. Look at the proponent's plans. Developments like this are the past. Resorts are standard issue worldwide. Like shopping malls, they're all essentially the same place, that is, no place. Damaging, resource-draining monstrosities that require real places to attach themselves to. They exploit places and give nothing back. They're a dime a dozen. The Ningaloo Reef on the other hand is a one-off. We go there for what it is already. We have no need for the New Improved version that this proponent is trying to sell us. The reef is an Australian icon. Given enough information, West Australians won't surrender it without a fight. Our piece of the island has been good to us. Maybe it's time for the arrangement to finally be mutual.

Tim Winton
25th September, 2001

Save Ningaloo Campaign
By Chris Tallentire

"The resort is a misguided, exploitative monstrosity that should never have been allowed to get this far. Developments like these in wilderness areas belong to disasters of the past. They have no place in our future. Governments who entertain such plans will live on in infamy. You can't undo decisions like this. Why would any responsible government consider it?" - Tim Winton

The Save Ningaloo campaign brought together over 350 people in the Alexander Library Theatrette on Tuesday 25 September. The evening marked a further lifting of the campaign's momentum.

Tim Winton, internationally acclaimed author and passionate campaigner for the environmental protection of marine and coastal ecosystems, hosted the evening and paid tribute to the efforts made so far by campaigners against the proposed Coral Coast Resort.

Mr Winton spoke of his sense of wonderment at the Ningaloo ecology and his view that imposing a ubiquitous resort at Ningaloo was an attack on the rights of future generations to enjoy the area in a magnificent state of wilderness.

Scientific information on Ningaloo's biodiversity values was explained by Dr David Sutton, who highlighted the significance of Ningaloo's location at the intersection of different biogeographic regions. Dr Sutton outlined the environmental factors that would make World Heritage listing of the area highly appropriate. He also spoke of the many gaps in scientific knowledge about the area.

Mr Dennis Beros of the Australian Marine Conservation Society presented mapped information showing the ranges of humpback whales, manta rays, dugong and turtles, upon which he overlayed the projected zone of impact of a resort at Maud's Landing. By indicating the potential for specific impacts on species it was evident that significant impacts on ecological processes were likely. Mr Beros also spoke of the need to develop an alternative vision for the area that put environmental values first.

Having spent a number of years as a filmmaker in the area Mr Richard Todd was able to speak of a typically wonderful Ningaloo day. He described the thrill of swimming with a whale shark and asked where else in the world this can be done while on the same day seeing turtles, humpback whales, and manta rays, not to mention numerous stunning species of fish and coral.

Mr Todd questioned the environmental soundness of using 1890s planning legislation to justify the selection of the Maud's Landing town site for the location of the proposed resort. Mr Todd suggested that for any essential development in the region that Exmouth was a more logical location. He also spoke on the various options for the development of a road in the Carnarvon Coastal Strategy.

At several stages in the evening the adequacy of the scope of environmental consultants reports was questioned. Discussion was held on what the next course of action should be. One suggestion was that shareholders of the company proposing the development should be accurately informed of the likely environmental consequences of the proposal proceeding.

Mr David McKenzie of the Wilderness Society highlighted the need for all concerned members of the public to write to the Government lodging their disapproval. The present round of protestation includes writing letters to Dr Geoff Gallop, Premier of Western Australia.