Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act update: WAFarmers

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WA Farmers, Media Release, 30 June 2023

Farmers beware! Come midnight tonight, don’t think you can crank up your bulldozer, grader or continue building that new hay shed and not have to worry about the new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage laws.

Despite rumours, media spin and wishful thinking there is:

  • No 12-month delay in the legislation that impacts farmers.
  • No reprieve to prosecutions should farmers commence a dam on a heritage site.
  • No major concessions by the State government.

But there is:

  • Some minor administrative issues involving past surveys mostly dealing with the mining sector.
  • The establishment of a cross sector implementation group of which WAFarmers has been invited to sit on. and has accepted, to iron out “any major issues”.
  • The commencement of a half million-dollar PR campaign to sell the changes.

While some may think that the Premier’s light touch and soft start might sound appealing, by law nothing has changed, and you could well find yourself prosecuted for any heritage damage you do in the coming months with no legal recourse despite the Premier’s spin.

If the government was serious about its ‘educative, informative, collaborative and partnership approach’ (their words), they would not have seen hundreds of farmers leave regional information sessions angry and confused just days before the commencement of the new Act.

By not being able to clearly articulate what is and isn’t an exempt activity, ‘like for like’ activity or what a heritage survey costs, is a clear message the government has a long way to go to make this legislation workable and not a pathway to dollars for lawyers.

What we need is not a delay in the legislation, but wholesale changes that free freehold farmland from being held to ransom.

This will start with the Liberals and Nationals coming out and publicly backing WAFarmers’ call for the government to pay for any heritage surveys on private land and to pay compensation for any loss of farmers property rights.

We are working on solutions but be very clear the government has not conceded much if anything. The fight has only just begun.

Related stories: Aboriginal Cultural Heritage – Western Australian Farmers react to the new law; Implementation on track for new Aboriginal cultural heritage laws: Cook, Buti.


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