James Price Point, 60km north of Broome, the site of the proposed LNG hub. Photo: Glenn Campbell
The pop stars, eco activists and millionaires have finished what they came for and are all long gone - one assumes they are off fighting to save the world somewhere else.
It is unfortunate that these environmental dropkicks never hang around long enough to be confronted with the results of their actions, because in this case they have departed with the long-term economic prospects of the people of the Kimberley.
The collapse of the James Price Point gas project means that for the foreseeable future there are no major employment prospects in the region and this leaves the people of the Kimberley with a huge problem.
It should not have been like this, because, at the last state election, the environmentalists shouted that it was to be a referendum on this project.
They were correct, it was a referendum but they lost it.
Kimberley people voted strongly against the Greens with candidates and parties supporting the project gaining around 75 per cent of the vote.
In a democracy that should matter, but when they did not win these celebrities and eco terrorists just ignored the result and continued their campaigns.
They managed to delay the project long enough for it to die and now the Kimberley is left carrying the can.
The government is still trying to salvage something useful from the disaster, but it is looking very unlikely that anything of the scale of the earlier project will ever appear.
This leaves the tourism, pastoral, pearling and diamond mining industries as the main employers of the region. But, as romantic and nostalgic as these industries are, they cannot and will not provide enough work for the Kimberley people.
So what will people do? How can the region sustain itself?
There are few options on the horizon and that project was a once in a century opportunity that had the ability to transform the region. Its demise has destroyed the economic prospects of the Kimberley.
So just who should be held accountable for condemning the majority of Kimberley inhabitants to a life of government-funded welfare?
It certainly is not going to be the unelected and outspoken project opponents because they have all run away and returned to their normal lives.
In a different way, governments have also moved on. This was just one of many issues for them, and whilst they will continue their efforts, they have bigger fish to fry elsewhere.
That leaves the residents of the Kimberley as the only ones who will have to find a way to deal with these issues, and today in Broome, the four local governments of the region are meeting to discuss the Kimberley.
They have a huge task in front of them, and as one of their guest speakers I will be pointing out to the delegates that even with all the good intentions in the world, governments will not be able to help them.
Thirteen years ago I attended and presented a paper to a similar conference in Katherine NT. That paper was entitled Slaves to the City and it showed how dysfunctional the regional development processes are in WA.
Today’s problems for the Kimberley are magnified because the high birthrates of the region mean there are more kids and there are no real job prospects - and little else has changed for them.
One thing that has changed over that time has been the introduction of the Royalties for Regions program. While this fund provides a pot of money for regional WA to access, the entrenched problems of the Kimberley and Pilbara remain largely unaddressed and unfunded by it.
Another aspect is that the Kimberley is culturally, economically and even geologically different to the south of the state and these differences mean that policies, practices and procedures devised to meet city and urban problems are unlikely to work the Kimberley.
Our inflexible and unresponsive governments are designed to operate from head office, and to do this they exercise stringent central control - and actions that do not conform have little chance of ever being implemented.
When someone does something out of the box that does not conform to government policy but actually works, government departments go into a frenzy trying to stop it.
Yet to revive its future the Kimberley needs to ignore government policy and find its own direction because few of the necessary actions will conform to the wishes of head office or fit any government policy.
The best course of action will probably include a mix of council unification, clever use of regional bodies, a system of community foundations and socio-economic agreements in partnership with major companies and, hopefully, forcing central governments to devolve some of their powers to a regional level.
But the one thing that we can be certain of is that unless the rigid central control of government changes, the local authorities of the Kimberley will be meeting again in another 13n years still be trying to find solutions for the same issues.
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