Stop the press
| Dampier petroglyph
This petroglyph is one of perhaps 400 000 to be destroyed needlessly by nitric acid
A SMALL SELECTION OF MEDIA REPORTS CONCERNING THE DAMPIER ROCK ART
19 December 2008 Une concentration majeure d’art rupestre menacée en Australie, in Le Monde, France, reports that a quarter of the Murujuga rock art has been destroyed.
28 July 2008 Apache Energy decides against placing gas plant at Dampier, due to ‘environmental and safety concerns’.
4 June 2008 Aboriginal heritage on the rocks, interview of Wilfred Hicks in The Guardian Weekly.
29 February 2008 On the rocks, detailed report in Financial Review.
19 February 2008 Clearance query may stall Pluto, Financial Review.
22 January 2008 Australia’s greatest cultural treasure being thrashed, an article in the major Swiss newspaper. See English translation of the article.
24 November 2007 Pluto ploughs on as art is moved
15 November 2007 World Monuments Fund raises hell over Pluto
2 November 2007 They smash our Bible, an article in a major German newspaper.
1 November 2007 Australia destroys world heritage, in major German newspaper.
12 October 2007 Australian Government approves Woodside’s Pluto project
10 September 2007 Aborigines seek intervention on Pluto plant
3 July 2007 Heritage listing for Dampier rock art
30 May 2007 Industry ‘high risk’ to Dampier rock art
25 April 2007 Dampier to be heritage listed by Turnbull
21 February 2007 Rock art decision looms
29 January 2007 IFRAO letter to Turnbull
5 December 2006 Fate of petroglyphs known in ten days
28 November 2006 Opposition to Dampier heritage listing dropped
22 November 2006 Rock art report wrong
31 October 2006 Dampier treasure is history in the taking
17 October 2006 Dampier study comments
16 October 2006 Burrup Peninsula Air Pollution Study: Final Report by the CSIRO, dated 10 April 2006
12 October 2006 Campbell says Dampier rock art will be disturbed
12 October 2006 Dampier rock art lost as Woodside expands
11 October 2006 Ancient art to make way for gas plant
10 October 2006 List the Burrup today!
9 October 2006 Woodside Burrup plans concern Indigenous groups
5 October 2006 Davidson defends Woodside’s art scholarship
5 October 2006 Aboriginal rock art debate goes public, an important report by ABC
4 October 2006 Postcards choke Campbell’s mailbox
4 October 2006 National Trust backs Burrup heritage report
4 October 2006 Woodside funds rock art scholarship
4 October 2006 Campbell has ‘no reason’ not to protect the Burrup: Brown
3 October 2006 New factors prompt further Burrup consideration
2 October 2006 Decision of Burrup rock art ‘months away’
30 September 2006 Mine comes before art, after war
30 September 2006 Gas plant threatens Australia’s ancient art
30 September 2006 Civilisations collide in WA’s North-West
14 September 2006 Aboriginal rock art under threat
6 September 2006 Senator Rachel Siewert’s fact sheet
6 September 2006 Australian energy project threatens ancient rock art
5 September 2006 Rock art set for destruction
5 September 2006 Peter Andren MP, Burrup fact sheet
5 September 2006 Rock art threatened by gas project
1 July 2006 Engrave danger, The Australian
10 May 2006 World-class rock art in danger
3 May 2006 Archaeologists push to protect rock art
29 June 2002 The battle for the Burrup, West Australian, Weekend Extra
29 June 2002 Ancient secrets of lost art
28 June 2002 Task force to study Burrup rock art
19 June 2002 Aboriginal rock art neglected
27 April 2002 Rock art fears
MEDIA RELEASE BY THE IFRAO PRESIDENT
28 January 2004
W.A. STATE GOVERNMENT’S BURRUP PLANS ARE PERVERSE
The fatal explosion at the LNG plant of Skikda, eastern Algeria, on 19 January 2004 claimed at least 27 lives and injured 72 more workers. Numerous explosions have occurred before in LNG plants, including one in Cleveland, Ohio, causing the death of 128 people and injuring almost 400. On 23 December 2003, the natural gas explosion at Chongqing, south-western China, killed 234 people and injured about 500, forcing also the evacuation of more than 40,000 residents and the treatment of over 9000 people overcome by poisonous fumes. Australia, a newcomer to the international LNG market, has only had ‘minor’ incidents so far. The explosion at the Longford Esso facility in 1998 claimed two lives and shut down much of the economy of Victoria for two weeks. The Moomba explosion on 1 January 2004 had a similar effect on South Australia and New South Wales but miraculously caused no deaths. In a previous gas explosion at Moomba, on 15 June 2001, one worker was killed.
The lesson from the Algerian and Chinese incidents, both of which occurred within the last few weeks, is two-fold. First, the US market has quickly responded by pouring cold water on the idea of the W.A government to secure huge export contracts for LNG exports to the American west coast. The Director of the Institute of the Americas’ Energy Program, Jeremy Martin, signaled that companies would now find it more difficult to secure government permits and financing for their ventures. Australian advocates had only shortly after the Moomba explosion and days before the Skikda explosion lobbied US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, claiming that Australia’s natural gas industry had an impeccable safety record.
Second, in the Algerian incident, a nearby oil refinery had to be shut down as a precaution and there was considerable damage and injury in a residential zone. LNG liquefying plants must be erected in complete isolation, which in W.A. is easy to achieve, with almost a million square miles of vacant land. Yet, the state government is determined to squeeze as many plants as possible into just one location, the central part of the Burrup Peninsula, an area of a few square kilometres. In the process, it is destroying the largest petroglyph complex in the world, an irreplaceable cultural monument of undisputed world significance. Last year alone, between 170 and 180 sites were destroyed through this obsessive zeal. Moreover, the extremely high concentration of petrochemical plants the government wants to establish next to the existing Woodside plant will greatly increase the probability of a massive industrial disaster, because an explosion can occur at each and every one of these dozen or so plants and affect those others built too close. Finally, much of the land earmarked for this development is subject to occasional surge tides, occurring once or twice in a century. Such an event, engineers predict, would cause the explosion of the plants affected. The plan of the W.A. government is therefore nothing short of perverse.
We are not opposed to the intelligent development of the natural gas reserves of Western Australia, but we suggest that the present plan is severely flawed. We respectfully request that construction of infrastructure by the government be halted to prevent more public spending on this doomed plan. The infrastructure is not needed, no new companies will ever set up business on the Burrup, and by persisting with its perverse plan the government is damaging not only its own credibility, but also the economic prospects of the state as a whole – and Australia’s greatest cultural monument.
Robert G. Bednarik, President of IFRAO
WOODSIDE ENERGY LTD
News Release, Wednesday, 26 March 2003
‘ERROR’ IN EMISSIONS DATA
Woodside Energy Ltd, operator of the North West Shelf Venture, advises that a review of data at its Onshore Gas Plant at Karratha in Western Australia has identified an error in calculating emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx).
The North West Shelf Venture’s Chief Executive, Steve Ollerearnshaw, said the error had not affected the concentration of oxides of nitrogen which were regularly measured in gas turbine exhausts stacks, and that the Onshore Gas Plant continued to comply with licence conditions.
Oxides of nitrogen are produced at the Onshore Gas Plant at Karratha as part of the LNG and domestic gas production processes. NOx is formed through the combustion of hydrocarbon and air in gas turbines and furnaces.
Measured ground level concentrations of NOx in the local townships of Karratha and Dampier are within the national health standards. Levels of oxides of nitrogen at the Onshore Gas Plant remain at least 10 times below occupational health exposure standards.
Mr Ollerearnshaw said the error emanated from incorrect calculations on the flow rate of exhaust gas. It has meant that the mass of oxides of nitrogen should have been about 11,000 tonnes a year, not 6,000 tonnes as previously reported.
Woodside has advised Government authorities of the error.
Rob Millhouse, Public Issues Manager
Mike Lynn, Investor Relations Manager
ROBIN CHAPPLE MLC, FOR THE MINING AND PASTORAL REGION
Media Release, Friday, 17 January 2003
Yesterday’s announcement by the Western Australian Government that industrial development on the Burrup Peninsula would go ahead has sent a chilling message to local and international campaigners fighting to preserve the heritage province for all time.
The Government has admitted that it is considering nominating the Burrup for World Heritage Listing now that industrial sacrifice zones have been established at Hearson Cove, Withnall East and along associated infrastructure corridors.
“The Government has finally become dimly aware of the value of the site, on the same day they sign off on an agreement to wreck a substantial part of it,” Mr Chapple said.
“It is now quite clear that in Western Australia, Aboriginal heritage is fine as long as it doesn’t get in the way. We will be happy to exploit Indigenous culture and iconography until such time as a conflict arises with heavy industry. Then we send in the bulldozers.”
Mr Chapple reiterated his call for an overhaul of Aboriginal Heritage and Native Title Legislation. “Somewhere along the line, the legal right of a sovereign people to decide what happens on their land has been converted
into a right to be ‘consulted’ and eventually paid out. In practice, this leads to the kind of coercive practices we have seen on the Burrup. ‘Negotiation’ has become a one-way path to a predetermined outcome set by the Government of Charles Court in the late 1960s.”
Mr Chapple has predicted that the national and international outcry over the well-publicised risks to the rock art province will intensify, not diminish, as a result of the announcement. “Over the next few months the Government is going to have to show the international community what their commitment to Aboriginal heritage actually looks like in the real world. And I think if we let them get away with it, it’s going to look very ugly indeed.”
Media Release, National Trust of Australia, Thursday, 22August 2002 (extract)
National Trust Issues Call to Action to Save Murujuga/Dampier Rock Art
Releasing the 2002 Endangered Places List today, Simon Molesworth, Chairman of the Australian Council of National Trusts, decried the destruction and degradation of heritage places around the nation. Speaking at the historic Customs House in Brisbane – a place now threatened by overtowering development – he urged his audience to maintain their vigilance to ensure Australia’s rich and diverse cultural heritage survived for future generations.
Mr Molesworth said ‘What country are we, that we would consider further damaging the Murujuga, the world’s finest rock art site on the Burrup Peninsula’.
‘Government must listen to communities and take immediate action to ensure that places of value and meaning, such as those we are listing this year, do survive and can continue to enrich the lives of present and future Australians’ he said.
Responding to Mr Molesworth’s call, Professor David Dolan, Chairman of the National Trust of Australia (WA) issued a statement today calling on all Western Australians to register their support to protect important Western Australian heritage places.
‘A lack of maintenance and conservation funds, as well as policies and incentives that fail to encourage conservation, restoration and reuse are hampering the National Trust’s ability to help save important State landmark places’ he said. ‘As a result, many of the tangible reminders of Western’s Australia’s heritage are on the verge of disappearing’.
‘Western Australia’s heritage is the places we depend on as anchors in a restless, uncertain world. They are the wellsprings of the sense of continuity that one historian has called ‘part of the very backbone of human dignity.’ They are the magnets that pull us together to commemorate, to celebrate, to mourn, to mark the major passages in our State’s life. They are, in effect, the story of us as a State and a people – a powerful story that can just as easily be written in earth, wood, water, rock, stone and
steel as it can on paper.
‘We need these places – but we can lose them,’ Professor Dolan continued. ‘We’ve always known they are fragile, but the National Trust Endangered Places 2001 Report Card reminds us of just how quickly and stunningly our heritage can be taken from us.’
Executive Officer, Australian Council of National Trusts
NEWS RELEASE by Karratha & District Chamber of Commerce & Industry (Inc.), Tuesday, 13 August 2002
Chamber initiates Maitland Industrial Estate Task Force
The Karratha & Districts Chamber of Commerce & Industry (Inc) today announced the establishment of a Maitland Development Task Force to begin planning to attract future developments to our region.
Chamber President Leann Cooper said it was the Chamber’s understanding that once the current Projects are built at Hearsons Cove, there are no further developmental options available on the Burrup Peninsula.
‘It is imperative that the region offers a longer term view and the Chamber believes that the ideal place for future development to occur is the Maitland Heavy Industry Estate.’
‘Maitland has large areas of land available that satisfies all current and future demand of industrial developers,’ she said.
‘The planning and infrastructure needs to take place now to encourage long term, sustainable industrial development which inturn benefits our entire community.’
‘The Chamber is keen for the industrial development on the Burrup Peninsula to proceed as the catalyst for future development on Maitland, as it is the Chamber’s understanding that particular proposals have reached a stage which prevents their relocation to Maitland.’
‘To prevent the success of the current projects on the Burrup would be of detriment to our community and the state as a whole.’
With this in mind, it is the Chamber’s intention to initiate talks with the state & federal governments and if necessary the proponents, to promote the Maitland Industrial Estate and ensure it is developed now for the long-term growth of our community.
Leann Cooper – Chamber President on 0417 954 018
MEDIA RELEASE by IFRAO – 8 July 2002
Scientists agree on threat to Murujuga (Burrup) rock art
Concerning the ongoing efforts to locate new industrial development near Karratha, Western Australia, at the Maitland Estate (to save the massive rock art galleries on the Burrup), Pilbara MLA Fred Riebeling is quoted by The West Australian WEEKEND EXTRA of June 29 2002 as saying ‘If the government produces acid rain it will be an absolute tragedy. And the first time I see a reputable agency say that, then I’ll take it seriously.’
Almost at the same time the consulting scientists of one of the companies involved, Methanex P/L, tabled their impact assessment report on behalf of that company. Their findings agree with those of independent scientists, that the Burrup rock art is already deteriorating, and that this process will be accelerated by the establishment of further petrochemical industry. The Methanex report states:
‘Being conservative, one could assume that the pH has reduced by a maximum of 1 pH unit since the introduction of Woodside and Hamersley Iron. … it can be assumed that [as a result of the proposed new development] the pH of rainfall may be [further] reduced by an order of 0.7 of a pH unit.’ In practical terms, this means that the acidity of rainfall will have increased by about 17 times. It is further reported that a change in atmospheric pH by 2.2 units has been recorded to increase rock solubility by 230% in the Kimberley. Methanex’s report also states:
‘Although the proposed methanol complex will be a relatively small contributor of SOx and NOx to the airshed, Methanex recognises that on a cumulative basis, impacts will occur on Aboriginal rock art and it is necessary that this issue be addressed and resolved as far as practicable. … Methanex recognises that the proposed methanol complex will not be the sole contributor to NOx and SOx in the airshed. Numerous other industries will be making a contribution, both in smaller and larger quantities. On this basis, Methanex encourages that such a cumulative issue be further investigated in detail through an ‘Industrial Council’ developed for the Burrup Peninsula. Methanex will be prepared to proportionally contribute jointly with other industry and government towards such an investigation. … However Methanex is not aware whether these issues have been further investigated and specifically addressed by other developers.’
Their report also details predicted damage to the vegetation on the Burrup: ‘The estimated deposition of 4.8g NOx/m2 exceeds the critical loads determined for European vegetation types.’ [In fact critical loads begin at 0.5g/m2 and are all below 3.5g/m2, for all vegetation types.] ‘The presence of the sulphate ion in air pollution has been noted to disrupt the ability of plants to regulate water content, which would make plants more susceptible during drought periods.’
Of course Fred Riebeling MLA may not regard the report by the Methanex scientists as coming, in his own words, from a ‘reputable agency’. The question is, does he himself speak for a reputable agency?
According to the government of Western Australia, the reason why the proposed multi-billion dollar development in the Karratha region has to be placed on the Burrup Peninsula is that the preferred Maitland Heavy Industry Estate will not be available in time for occupation. Yet this government still makes no attempt to commence work at Maitland to create the required infrastructure, engaging instead in unproductive rhetoric. This procrastination may well prompt some of the companies involved to review their investment plans, particularly in view of the doubts about the suitability of the Burrup land, which consists largely of heritage sites. If this should happen the government’s dithering will be the reason for any cancellation of projects.
Environmental impact studies were carried out at Maitland already in the early and mid-1990s and resulted in a LandCorp announcement of September 1996 defining Maitland as an ‘environmentally acceptable and feasible proposal’. Yet the government intends to waste $221 million of state and federal funds in developing new infrastructure on Burrup, before it begins developing the huge 4000 ha Maitland Estate for another $300 million or more (which it fully intends to do). Yet if it developed Maitland on time, it would save having to spend money on the Burrup, and it would save the largest body of petroglyphs in the world from destruction. It is therefore government procrastination that is responsible for a frittering away of public money and the destruction of irreplaceable heritage sites, and ultimately perhaps even for the loss of industrial investment.
A recent public meeting on the Burrup requested unanimously that the new development be located at Maitland. Sneers Fred Riebeling MLA: ‘All the people out at the protest work for the industry. They were basically saying it’s all right for us but the next crop of people that want to live and work in the Pilbara, bad luck, we’re happy with what we’ve got.’ His contempt for scientists may be politically motivated, but his contempt for the people who elected him may yet cost him his office. His government’s dithering concerning Maitland, its complete disregard for the local population, its dictatorial treatment of the Indigenous claimants for the Burrup, its 40-year neglect of the massive heritage property have all contributed to the present confrontation. Yet the government has made no announcement addressing these concerns in the many months since they were first raised. Its procrastination has become its hallmark, and it is clear from recent debates in parliament that it simply repeats the rhetoric of the Chamber of Commerce and the Office of Major Projects.
Urgency motion in the Legislative Council of Western Australia, 18 June 2002 (extracts)
Motion by HON JOHN FISCHER (Mining and Pastoral) [2.21 pm]:
I move the motion. I have introduced the urgency motion because I believe that issues surrounding the development of the Burrup Peninsula are urgent. All Western Australians, including Aboriginal groups, are keen for development to occur in the west Pilbara that will bring $6.1 billion of investment to the State. This development will create 5000 jobs locally during construction, plus an additional 620 permanent jobs, and underpin the future of not only the Pilbara but also the whole of Western Australia.
We question not the developments themselves, but their location. With the exception of GTL Resources (Australia) Pty Ltd, all these projects have been allocated land immediately behind Hearson Cove, which has the most pristine beach anywhere along the Pilbara coastline. The Burrup is home to the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal rock art.
This Government came to power on a platform of consultation. It obviously has no real understanding of the meaning of that word. One of Labor’s election promises was to adopt a policy of negotiation rather than conflict with Aboriginal native title claimants. I will show members that the Labor Government has failed to negotiate, has failed to consult in good faith with native title claimants in the Burrup area, and has failed to keep the Shire of Roebourne fully informed on these developments. The Government has consulted very few interested parties. In the area around Karratha and the Burrup there are three native title groups – the Wong-Goo-Tt-Oo group, the Yaburara Mardudhunera group and the Ngarluma Injibandi, group. The latter group is the most influential and has ties to former Labor Premier Peter Dowding. In fact, the Wong-Goo-Tt-Oo group has a claim with the federal Government that they are the rightful traditional people of the area, which is awaiting determination by Justice Nicholson. This decision is expected to be handed down within the next few months. This Government claims to have extensively negotiated and consulted with these three groups. I have a letter from Aboriginal members of my electorate who are signatories to the Ngarluma Injibandi group. This letter shows that the consultation has not been free, fair and without coercion.
[A letter by Maudie and Kenny Jerrold dated 7 June 2002 is tabled, stating;]
We were forced under duress and great pressure to sign a document that we do not agree with. We were afraid of what might happen to us if we did not sign it. We never signed it willingly. Can you do anything to help us? We understand that if we get independent legal advice then we can show that our signatures were forced from us under duress and threat. We look forward to hearing from you and receiving some truly independent and proper legal advice.
[For the benefit of non-Australian readers, it is to be mentioned that Hon Fisher is an MP of One Nation, a right-wing party, so here we have Aboriginal elders being tricked by a Labor government to sign over their ancient rights seeking the help of a right-wing politician!]
Some important things can be extracted from this disturbing letter. Most importantly, the people are being forced to sign the memorandum of understanding because they are afraid of what will happen to them if they do not do so. Another issue is that of who are the real traditional owners. The signatories of the letter respect the traditional rights of the group known as the Wong-Goo-Tt-Oo to the Burrup Peninsula, which are being denied by the Western Australian Government. How shameful this is. They are saying that the Wong-Goo-Tt-Oo are the traditional owners. The Aboriginal groups know this as well, and the Government would have known this if it had consulted as it claims it has. Pat Cooper, a signatory for the Yaburara Mardudhunera native title group contacted me recently. She was horrified because she had read in the Press that a group had been consulted about the development on the Burrup Peninsula, and was party to a buy-back plan. She claims that she had never been consulted and certainly does not support the memorandum of understanding. She is one of only three signatories to the Yaburara Mardudhunera group, yet she has not been consulted.
The next issue involves the Minister for Regional Development. On 6 June, at 11.15 am at Roebourne community hall, Wilfred Hicks, a signatory for the Wong-Goo-Tt-Oo group, asked whether he could speak to the minister at a meeting. The minister asked him which group he represented, and when Mr Hicks told him, the minister replied that his group had done its dash; the State Government would not talk to his group until it sacked its lawyers and consultants. Then the minister walked away. In other circumstances, this would constitute a criminal act. It shows that this Government is not intent on consultation with Aboriginal people, but would prefer to adopt bullying tactics against the very people it claims to support.
HON ROBIN CHAPPLE (Mining and Pastoral) [2.46 pm]: I have been involved with the Burrup Peninsula since 1974, and I have walked most of its length and breadth. I have also carried out heritage survey work. The Burrup is the world’s most significant petrographic gallery. The only other place that comes close is a site in Turkey, but it does not have the same number of petroglyphs that are associated with Burrup. Peter Veth, who produced the Burrup Peninsula Aboriginal Heritage Project, indicated that there were approximately one million petroglyphs. No surveys on rock art have been carried out in the Burrup area. However, there have been a number of individual studies; John Patterson has done some work, and Robert Bednarik did some work before the establishment of Dampier. Beth Ettel did some work on the northern end, and Pat Vinnicombe did some work in the Pistol Ranges. All such work has been isolated, and there is no quantified data for the Burrup Peninsula.
Hon KEN TRAVERS: Hon Robin Chapple raised concerns about rock art on the Burrup Peninsula. The Government has listened to concerns on this issue and it is examining new research. It is also forming an expert task force to provide advice to the Government. By his own admission, Mr Bednarik employs a scientific methodology not yet used by anyone else in the world, which makes peer review difficult. The Government is rigorously seeking to determine the validity of the methodology. Independent of that, despite what has been commonly reported, the paper does not imply that the planned development on the Burrup Peninsula will destroy the petroglyphs. However, it states that, without any further development on the Burrup, some petroglyphs will begin disappearing some time in the second half of this century. The Government is concerned about this issue. As I mentioned earlier, a task force is reviewing those matters.
Ancient rock art missing
By NICK TAYLOR
16jun02 Sunday Times
ANCIENT Aboriginal rock art in the state’s North-West is under threat
Pieces of the rare work, locked in a fenced compound on the Burrup Peninsula for 20 years, are missing. Others have been destroyed or damaged.
The unique collection of almost 2000 boulders was put behind the wire when Woodside started its North-West Shelf gas project. A report obtained by The Sunday Times shows that:
Several boulders are missing.
Some are cracked and fragmented.
Twenty per cent of the boulders were damaged in a spinifex fire last year.
Some are partially buried and surfaces could become discoloured.
Boulders of special ceremonial significance are lying face down.
The report on the Hearson compound, close to the peninsula’s heavy industry, was carried out for Woodside by Australian Cultural Heritage Management.
The report says further investigation is needed.
‘The over-arching recommendation from this report is that the future of the Hearson compound needs to be fully discussed with relevant local Aboriginal communities . . . people are generally unhappy with the compound in its
‘Some engraved boulders have special significance and need to be treated separately from the main body of engravings.’
When the boulders were first moved to the compound they were numbered, but some numbers are missing and some were burnt off in the fire. Other numbers have partially worn off and some are buried. The report recommends that clean-up teams should be brought in regularly
until a decision is made on the future of the compound. The fire caused varying degrees of damage and experts should be consulted to
see if the burnt boulders, some of which were almost totally oxidised, could be restored.
Some damage occurred when the boulders were first moved while some occurred because of natural degradation.
The compound, built originally as a temporary measure while the gas plant was being built, is now administered by the WA Museum. Museum executive director Gary Morgan said a similar movement of boulders would not be advocated today.
‘What we have there is a ragbag of important stuff, stuff that was more important where it was. It is a jumble of material and because it has been moved it has lost some of its spiritual association.’
He said he was concerned that the museum did not have enough staff or resources to care for the site. ‘Any future outcome needs to be based on the recomendations of the Aboriginal people who can lay claim to the material,’ he said.
‘Their wishes and concerns have to be taken into account.’
Proceedings of the W.A. government, 11 June 2002
Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: I refer to a paper titled ‘The Survival of the Murujuga (Burrup) Petroglyphs’ by Robert G. Bednarik dated June 2002, which states in part –
Alternative curve (d) attempts to predict the effects of the proposed trebling of emissions and suggests that the shallow petroglyphs will disappear between about 2025 and 2035. Under these conditions, the fully exposed substrate will have commenced disintegration by the middle of the century, which is likely to lead to extinguishing almost the entire corpus of rock art by the end of the present century.
Does the department concur with these findings; and if not, why not? How does the department intend to reconcile these findings with its obligations under the Aboriginal Heritage Act to protect and preserve cultural sites? If it does concur, what funding is the department putting aside to protect or remove the more than one million petroglyphs on the Burrup Peninsula?
Ms THORLEY: The department does not concur or disagree with the findings in the report due to the fact that currently an expert panel of people is being put together to examine the emissions and the effect they will have on the petroglyphs. The department has not allocated specific moneys to the Burrup petroglyphs. We are working through our regional heritage offices and the native title process to assist in the protection of those petroglyphs.
Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: If the department concurs with the International Federation of Rock Art Organisations – which is a very prestigious body – that the findings in the report are true, does the department have any contingency plans for removing the more than one million petroglyphs?
Ms THORLEY: The department would have to consider that matter. We have a responsibility under the Aboriginal Heritage Act to ensure the protection of those petroglyphs. Woodside Petroleum Ltd has provided funds for the removal of the salvage pit petroglyphs to a safe area. We will be negotiating again with the proponents to ensure the protection of those petroglyphs.
Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: I ask a supplementary question in relation to my previous question. Given that the Department of Indigenous Affairs is drawing together a group of experts to look at the findings of Robert Bednarik, what sort of time line will that inquiry take, what will be the nature of the experts that will be drawn together and what is the expected cost? Finally, what controls on any further activity on the Burrup Peninsula will be put in place until there is a determination of whether Mr Bednarik’s findings are correct or until the department and/or its advisers come up with a different position?
Ms THORLEY: The department is not convening the expert panel so it has not allocated any dollars towards that process. I am not aware of the terms of reference of the inquiry, which I think are still being drafted. In terms of activity, the department will administer the Aboriginal Heritage Act and activity will be monitored under that process.
Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: Who will be putting together that panel?
Ms THORLEY: I am not sure. Can I take that question on notice.
Hon GRAHAM GIFFARD: We will provide that as supplementary information.
[Supplementary Information No 23]
ABC News Bulletin
Posted: Wed, 5 Jun 2002 12:45 AWST
WA Govt under fire over indigenous rock art preservation
Reports published in the International Journal of Rock Art Research have been highly critical of the Western Australian Government’s management of ancient Aboriginal rock art in the state’s north-west.
The International Federation of Rock Art Organisations says it has scientific evidence that ancient artworks on the Burrup Peninsula near Karratha are being rapidly destroyed by chemical emissions from heavy industry.
Billions of dollars worth of heavy industry is being planned for the peninsula, but the federation says it will demand it be moved to a nearby industrial estate.
Federation president Robert Bednarik says the evidence of destruction found is much worse than was suspected.
‘If planned expansion goes ahead on the Burrup Peninsula with a trebling of emissions over the next two years, we can expect that the shallow petroglyphs [rock art], we’ve got deep petroglyphs and shallow ones, the shallow ones are particularly vulnerable and we can expect they’re going to start disappearing by the year 2025,’ he said.
Department of Minerals and Petroleum Resources spokesman Roger Burrige says past and present state governments have been committed to the preservation of the Burrup rock art.
He says programs to ensure the art is not damaged are still in place.
‘The State Government is monitoring any potential impact that industry could have on the Burrup rock art, and at this stage it’s certainly not aware of any effect that industry in the area is having on it,’ he said.