Abstract

Airlie Island is a small (26 hectare) sand cay, located 35km north of Onslow in Western Australia. In common with other islands in the region, Airlie is a nesting site for seabirds and turtles, but its two primary conservation resources are the large Wedge-tailed Shearwater rookery which covers 64% of the island and an endemic skink species. Its conservation values have prompted the Western Australian State Government to declare the entire island a nature reserve set apart for the preservation of flora and fauna.

In 1987 Western Mining Corporation Pty Ltd developed the South Pepper and North Herald oilfields and part of this development included the siting of an oil terminal on Airlie Island.

It may be expected that the conservation resources of the island and the Company's requirements for land would be incompatible. However, a careful study of the local environment and the creation of a detailed plan to manage this environment resulted in an acceptable compromise. The vegetated area of Airlie Island was reduced by 3.1 hectares, or 12%, and appropriate siting and design of the facility minimized the impact on wildlife. Disciplined execution of the management plan during construction was an essential part of the overall environmental success of the project.

This case study shows that conservation and exploitation can be compatible if appropriate management strategies are developed and strictly implemented.

INTRODUCTION
Historical Perspective

Australia's North-West coast - the northern Carnarvon Basin - has seen extensive oil field activity in the last decade. That portion north of Onslow is characterised by shallow waters and numerous islands which have a high conservation value because of their seabird nesting sites, mangals and associated shallow water marine habitats. Nevertheless these features have led to a particular form of oilfield development which has minimized both costs and the likelihood of an oil spill by utilizing islands for crude oil storage. There are currently four such developments in the region. The first of these was the West Australian Petroleum (WAPET) Barrow Island facility. Work commenced on production facilities at Barrow in May, 1966. The subsequent discovery of further resources allowed W APET to retain its presence on Barrow Island and it remains the largest development in the region. There was no other development activity in the area until Bond Petroleum and its co-venturers began construction of the Lowendal (Varanus Island) facility for the Harriet Oilfield in 1985. This was followed by Western Mining's Airlie Island Development in 1987 and WAPET's The venard Island/Saladin Oilfield in 1988. Recent discoveries and continued exploration activity will possibly result in other such developments.

Historical Perspective

Australia's North-West coast - the northern Carnarvon Basin - has seen extensive oil field activity in the last decade. That portion north of Onslow is characterised by shallow waters and numerous islands which have a high conservation value because of their seabird nesting sites, mangals and associated shallow water marine habitats. Nevertheless these features have led to a particular form of oilfield development which has minimized both costs and the likelihood of an oil spill by utilizing islands for crude oil storage. There are currently four such developments in the region. The first of these was the West Australian Petroleum (WAPET) Barrow Island facility. Work commenced on production facilities at Barrow in May, 1966. The subsequent discovery of further resources allowed W APET to retain its presence on Barrow Island and it remains the largest development in the region. There was no other development activity in the area until Bond Petroleum and its co-venturers began construction of the Lowendal (Varanus Island) facility for the Harriet Oilfield in 1985. This was followed by Western Mining's Airlie Island Development in 1987 and WAPET's The venard Island/Saladin Oilfield in 1988. Recent discoveries and continued exploration activity will possibly result in other such developments.

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