Climate activists Petrina Harley and Liz Burrow returned to the Pilbara on January 13 to complete their trial for locking on to block the road into the Woodside Scarborough gas hub.
As part of Scarborough Gas Action Alliance, the pair, alongside Caleb Houseman used a caravan to block the road to the Burrup gas hub on November 24, 2021.
Inside the caravan, the pair locked on to a barrel filled with concrete, tar and metal shrapnel.
The activists made the case that their action was a reasonable response to an emergency, as the Burrup gas developments are contributing to catastrophic climate change as well as putting the 50,000-year-old rock art on the peninsula at risk of erosion.
The magistrate did not accept that the significantly increase in erosion affecting the Burrup rock art had been caused by the gas and fertiliser developments as Cooper, the activists’ expert witness was deemed unable to speak to the scientific cause of the erosion.
In addition, the magistrate did not allow the activists to tender two reports on the cause of the erosion, as they did not have an expert witness deemed qualified to be questioned on the matter.
The magistrate did, however, accept the tabling of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and The Runaway Train: The impact of WA’s LNG industry on meeting our Paris targets and national efforts to tackle climate change, by 350.org and the WA Conservation Council.
Nonetheless, the magistrate found the pair guilty, deeming the reports did not prove an “immediate and sudden” emergency.
Harley used the “extraordinary emergency defence”, arguing that the LNG developments contribute to climate and cultural emergencies.
The activists were charged $100 and 100 hours of community service for blocking the road, and an additional $500 for resisting arrest, as they did not release when issued with a move on notice.
Further, the Western Australia Police are seeking another $11,000 each in costs for flights, accommodation and food for the transportation of the lock-on expert police to the peninsula.
Houseman, who pled guilty, has not been charged costs. Harley and Burrow asked to be allowed to seek legal consultation before the magistrate rules on the $11,000 in costs.
Harley claims the police are pursuing costs to make an example of them to deter other activists.
“The police trying to hit us with $33,000 in costs. They should chase Woodside for the money, as it is their fault we need to protest,” Harley said.
Even before the trial began, the magistrate stated he did not believe the activists had a reasonable defence. He made disparaging comments about the inconvenience the activists had caused.
Harley said that, despite the verdict, it was important to have the case heard. “We are in a climate emergency and it is reasonable to resist it.”
[Walyalup Climate Action Alliance is campaigning in the greater Perth region to stop Woodside’s Scarborough gas project. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved. Save Our Songlines are campaigning to stop the developments in the Burrup peninsula.]