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Government must halt Tarkine Coast 4WD track expansion

Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania
The Wilderness Society

Media Release – 7th December 2014


Federal approach to heritage assessments nonsensical

Calls on the State Government to halt its planned expansion of 4WD tracks in the National Heritage- listed Aboriginal Cultural Landscape on the Tarkine coast have intensified after an admission by the Federal Government that it might have responsibility for assessing elements of the plan under Federal law.

Following an extensive study and consultation the tracks were closed in 2012 due to damage to ancient Aboriginal heritage values. Government claims to have plans to re-route parts of the track to avoid exacerbating this damage. However, in a nonsensical move that will continue the damage to the cultural values the tracks were closed to avoid, they also want to re-open the tracks before the re-routing and before any assessments have been done. .

“We are locked out of this Country and sidelined from this decision and see a future of ongoing destruction of our People’s heritage and a total disregard for the science of what is best needed to preserve the legacy our ancestors left before they were exiled from this land,” said Clyde Mansell, Aboriginal elder and Chairman of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania (ALCT).

“The State Government must halt this decision and put its legal, moral and practical responsibility to protect Aboriginal heritage above any other consideration.

“These tracks were closed to prevent more damage to middens, rock art sites and a landscape that was home to our People for thousands of generations. Reopening them to expand destructive 4WD access for a handful of people claiming tourism benefit and several generations of ‘traditional heritage’ use is as insulting as it is ridiculous.”

Legal opinion suggests the Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has a responsibility to intervene to stop the track reopening and avoid further damage to National Heritage- listed cultural values. However the Minister is refusing, saying he might have a responsibility to assess potential rerouting of the track aimed at avoiding damage to the most sensitive known sites.

“This is an illogical approach to heritage and environmental protection,” said Vica Bayley, spokesperson for the Wilderness Society.

“Government acknowledge track re-routing is required to avoid further damage and that federal approval could be required for that rerouting plan, but before any of that is completed they still want to reopen track access to huge 4WDs and all-terrain vehicles over the very sites identified for protection by re-routing.

“If the Turkish Government allowed recreational and tourism activities to carve up the Gallipoli Peninsula, Australians would be outraged. That’s the context in which white Australia should look at the expansion of 4WD tracks over this ancient Aboriginal Landscape.

“This track expansion should not proceed and Minister Hunt should prioritise legal process, common sense and heritage protection. The Tarkine coast is a landscape belonging to one of the oldest civilisations on the planet. In the interest of logical proper process, reconciliation and land justice to Aboriginal Tasmanians, priority should be given to protection.