Probe into industry effects on WA rock art

·2-min read

An independent reporter will assess the effects of industry on ancient rock art in Western Australia where a contentious fertiliser plant is being developed.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has granted a request for the assessment from Murujuga traditional custodians, who are campaigning against Perdaman's proposed $4.3 billion urea plant near Karratha in the Pilbara region.

A consultant will conduct a full cultural heritage assessment of all industry on the Burrup Peninsula and report to Ms Plibersek.

The minister will then decide whether to grant long-term protection of the relevant area under section 10 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act.

"An independent consultant has been engaged, as is standard under the (legislation)," a spokesperson for Ms Plibersek said.

"The consultant will take as long as is needed to prepare the report. There is no statutory timeframe."

The Perdaman project is located on Murujuga country, home to more than one million petroglyphs dating back over 40,000 years.

Traditional custodians Raelene Cooper and Josie Alec had also sought a 60-day moratorium on works under section 9 of the act.

But Ms Plibersek, who met with stakeholders during a recent visit to the Pilbara, last month gave Perdaman the green light to proceed.

She recognised the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and their Circle of Elders as the most representative organisation on cultural knowledge for the five traditional owner groups in the region.

Ms Cooper and Ms Alec said the minister's decision had been made based on "faulty reasoning and false conclusions".

They claimed members of the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation had been gagged from expressing opposition.

"The refusal to grant our section 9 application still allows for damage and desecration of our sacred Murujuga rock art while this assessment is underway," Ms Cooper said on Thursday.

"This is a dangerous and contradictory position from the government that makes no sense and reveals the hypocrisy at the heart of all consultation between traditional custodians and industry on the Burrup."

WA's Labor government has consistently affirmed its support for the Perdaman project, saying it had received all appropriate environmental and heritage approvals.

An application was submitted in 2020 for the Burrup Peninsula to be granted UNESCO world heritage status.

"The whole community needs to band together to protect Murujuga because this is about our human rights and basic equality under the law and our lore," Ms Cooper said.