Media Release, Thursday, 10 July 2003

Rutherford misses point - campaign responds

Tony Rutherford’s vitriolic attack on the Government’s decision to knock back the marina resort at Mauds Landing (“Mauds ruling comes at a cost , ” The West Australian, 9/7) missed the point about the real issues facing Ningaloo, what the Save Ningaloo Campaign stands for, and the economic drivers of the region.

He said, “The price of not damaging the environment tends to be high.” What about the price of a damaged environment in a region where the economy relies so much on a healthy one? It would create an expensive hangover - the same tired old story of trying to rehabilitate clapped out ecosystems once the damage has been done, like in so many places around the world. Why should we try to be smarter at Ningaloo? Because we still can.

Rutherford goes on about property rights but does not mention that they mean nothing unless the asset that generates the income is kept in good nick. That is why non-destructive development is good for business and why so many businesses across the Ningaloo region were concerned about the marina. Development needs to be informed by sensible planning and good science, but that was non-existent back when the Mauds Landing proposal was devised in the 80s.

What was most inexcusable though was his statement (made without a shred of evidence) that people would have a ‘well-grounded suspicion’ that what the Save Ningaloo Campaign ‘wanted all along’ was ‘small-scale, exclusive and expensive accommodation.’ What would motivate such a false and divisive statement? Was it an attempt to incite a backlash against the campaign, and if so, why?

The suggestion indicates to us that he does not see the irony of accusing us of such a thing and that he does not understand the Save Ningaloo Campaign. One of the fundamental principles of the campaign (reinforced endlessly) is that by putting the environment first, Ningaloo will be able to provide a wide range of experiences for visitors with different interests and budgets, and opportunities for business - again within sensible guidelines. Affordable camping holidays for families should continue, particularly when better managed and with improved facilities, as Government has promised. These activities are most threatened by high impact developments because they put so much pressure on the surrounding environment, as the Environmental Protection Authority warned last year.

Unable to resist another dig at the campaign, Rutherford suggested that it was waged by “western suburbs warriors.” Collie, Molino (Florida), Balga, Frankfurt, Exmouth, Bearsville (New York), Mandurah, Enoggera (Qld), Carnarvon, Singapore, London, Piggabeen (NSW) - western suburbs? Perhaps the masses of supporters from these places and more should all chip in a few cents and buy Rutherford a map.

He also suggests that Australian scientific knowledge from studying the Great Barrier Reef should have provided the basis upon which to make an objective, impartial decision. Actually, there was overwhelming scientific opinion and detailed submissions mounted against the marina proposal, including from scientists who have worked on the GBR. There has also been a stream of recent reports painting a very worrying picture about the GBR’s future, so much so that the Federal Government - not exactly your stereotypical group of greenies – is ringing the alarm bells and moving to rapidly expand sanctuary zones.

It’s easy to lob grenades at a community campaign but hopefully Mr Rutherford will engage more constructively in informed debate about Ningaloo’s future.

The Wilderness Society Conservation Council of WA Australian Marine Conservation Society World Wildlife Fund

Media Contact: Paul Gamblin, Save Ningaloo campaign spokesperson


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