News - 16 July 2021

Gutwein Government must scrap barbaric offroad folly that would destroy takayna/Tarkine Aboriginal artefacts

“The Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area is not a “Park” to Tasmanian Aboriginal people. It is our country, one of the last places we can take our families and surround ourselves absolutely with the places and culture of our old people, who lived there for so many thousands of years. We connect there; it’s a place of our memory and of our continuance. We feel our old people around us there.”

Brendan “Buck” Brown, AHO 2020, quoted on p12, “Tracks 501, 601, 503 Review of Aboriginal Heritage

The takayna/Tarkine coast.

An Independent cultural heritage assessment into the Tasmanian State Government’s proposed three offroad tracks along the takayna/Tarkine coast (also known by the non-Aboriginal name of Arthur Pieman Conservation Area) makes clear this offensive and ill-advised scheme represents an “unacceptably high risk” to lutruwita’s (Tasmania’s) pakana (Tasmanian Aboriginal) living cultural heritage and would cause “damage to Aboriginal heritage values, including listed national heritage values”.

“The findings of the cultural heritage assessment report are crystal clear and should make the Gutwein Government come to its senses. The Gutwein Government must end this threat to Aboriginal living cultural and heritage values, the ongoing distress to the pakana community and ecological harms to this incredibly special place, and scrap this stupid and offensive scheme immediately,” said Tom Allen for the Wilderness Society Tasmania.

“The takayna/Tarkine coast, like the rest of the takayna/Tarkine region, has such rich ecological and pakana living cultural and heritage values and significance that it would qualify for World Heritage status and protection. The fact that the Tasmanian Government has pushed for Aboriginal cultural heritage sites and artefacts to be literally crushed by off-road vehicles is barbaric, offensive and shameful.

“Adding insult to injury, as well as the offensiveness of the scheme itself, the consultants’ findings make clear that lutruwita/Tasmania’s pakana community has been repeatedly ignored and not consulted about this ridiculous scheme. This exclusion and failure to consult is as unethical as it is unlawful,” said Mr Allen.

Failure to consult with the pakana community means that the proposal “cannot demonstrate compliance with the APCA MP [Arthur Pieman Conservation Area Management Plan] and Tasmanian and Commonwealth heritage legislation, policies and guidelines”. (p82)

Other key findings from the report

“Leaving the tracks closed to vehicle access is a viable option for conserving Aboriginal heritage sites and values including listed National Heritage values… Taking no action (i.e. keeping the tracks closed) is likely to be the simplest and most cost-effective means of affording physical protection to Aboriginal heritage sites, conserving NHL values and aligning with current APCA management policies. (p71).

“The coast of takayna/Tarkine “is considered extremely significant, and it is evident there is considerable knowledge of heritage values in the area that have not been officially documented. It is vital to understand that making management decisions, including designing park infrastructure, based only on official records without Aboriginal community input, carries very high risks of impacting heritage that is both legally protected and belongs to Aboriginal people.” (p12)

“Shell middens, many containing stone artefacts, are very common, and often extensive. Many are intersected by the existing tracks, with several being intersected by proposed re-routes. While it may be possible to avoid some of the smaller identified sites by additional re-routes, larger sites will be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid.” (p72)

“Past vehicular access via Tracks 501 and 601 has resulted in significant damage to Aboriginal heritage.” (p74)

“All damage to Aboriginal heritage is irreversible, as sites are finite and non-renewable. The high degree of unpredictability of some impacts, and irreversibility of all impacts, constitutes.” (p77)

“The significance of any impacts can only be determined by the Tasmanian Aboriginal community through a process of meaningful and empowered engagement.” (p77)

“There are “significant risks that heritage breaches may result from cumulative and facilitated use.” (p77)

Plastic matting not viable

“Further evidence is required to support the use of the proposed plastic matting as an effective means of mitigating impacts on Aboriginal heritage values… It is the responsibility of the Department to provide the required evidence to the satisfaction of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community and Commonwealth regulator.” (p78)

Offsets not viable

“Offset management is not a methodology that is used or acceptable to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community for compensation of residual impacts at this time. It is not possible to address the question of offset management without comprehensive Aboriginal community consultation.” (p82)

Scheme will damage cultural heritage

“The current proposal is not currently supported by sufficient evidence that it will be materially effective in mitigating damage to Aboriginal heritage values, including listed national heritage values.” (p82)

The proposal does “not adequately address the unacceptably high risk of impacts associated with non-compliant activities which have created significant damage in the past, and in several instances, were observed to still be occurring”. (p82)

Failure to consult with the pakana community

“To date the proposed activity has not involved engagement with the Tasmanian Aboriginal community so currently cannot demonstrate compliance with the APCA MP and Tasmanian and Commonwealth heritage legislation, polices and guidelines.” (p82)

Legal requirements for input by and from Aboriginal community

“Management of cultural heritage is not simply an environmental matter, and the acceptability of any proposal that may impact Aboriginal heritage values can only be determined by the Aboriginal community. This position is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Australia (ICOMOS) Statement on Indigenous Cultural Heritage, and the Commonwealth Government’s National Heritage Management Principles.

This concept is also reflected in the following Objects and Principles of the EBPC Act:

(d) to promote a co-operative approach to the protection and management of the environment involving governments, the community, land-holders and indigenous peoples;

3A Principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development

(b) If there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.” (p82)

For further comment contact Tom Allen on 0434 614 323