PINJARRA Liberals have slammed Aboriginal Affairs Minister Peter Collier for ignoring repeated warnings by Murray Wellington MLA Murray Cowper over problems with the heritage listing of the Murray, Collie and Hotham rivers.
Pinjarra branch president Rob Filmer said his members had backed Mr Cowpers’ concerns with a motion to State Council condemning the process followed by Mr Colliers’ department and for treating the matter in such a ‘cavalier’ fashion.
“Our people have been mistreated in the same manner as the people of Broome – the listing, based on the mythical Wagaul – appears to have occurred, largely without their input,” he said.
“A decision on the Broome listing has been deferred, but unless the Minister also intervenes on behalf of river landowners, these registrations will proceed.
“Departmental and ministerial staff played down the importance of the proposed heritage listing, indicating that it would probably not proceed, or that if endorsed by the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee (ACMC), it would not affect them in any adverse way.”
Mr Filmer said some riverfront constituents were notified of the proposed listing by registered mail and had managed to respond despite an impossible deadline.
“Others were not notified until much later and still made the effort to respond by an extended deadline,’’ he said.
“All of that effort was in vain, because we understand the submissions appear to have been ignored by the listing committee.”
Mr Filmer said Mr Cowper first wrote to Mr Collier in August after a section of riverfront landowners along the Murray and Hotham river systems began receiving registered letters.
He said the letters failed to advise owners that if the listing was endorsed, and they would have to involve the department in any decisions to determine future use of their land.
“We have seen enough of these processes to understand that heritage listings bring a new mountain of red tape and often crippling, costly, anti-development terms and conditions,’’ he said.
“These listings for the Murray River were first introduced by the State Labor Government in 2000, but removed by the Barnett government in 2013 when the mythical Wagaul was rejected as grounds for river listings.
“This time, the re-listing has been activated by a Supreme Court recommendation only by Justice John Chaney, following threats of a class action by aboriginal people in Port Hedland, backed by Labor and the Greens.”
“The charade continues behind the back of the current minister, drawing more and more innocent landowners into a bureaucratic black hole.”But Mr Collier said it would be highly inappropriate to ignore the advice of the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee, which makes determinations based on all available information from landowners and Aboriginal people.
“To suggest I have ignored anyone on this issue is untrue,’’ he said.
“In this instance, the ACMC has determined that the rivers should be considered Aboriginal Heritage sites.
“In an effort to strike a balance between recognition and contemporary use, the ACMC revised the site boundaries up to and including the high water mark, not the 100-year flood line that previously marked the sites.
“This ensures landowners along the Murray River can continue to use their land without the requirements to seek Aboriginal heritage approval for works while recognising and protecting the mythological significance that the rivers have for the Aboriginal people of the South West.”