Beaches tollway threatens to destroy ancient Aboriginal rock art

 

Source: ABC News

Beaches Link tollway construction threatens to destroy ancient Aboriginal rock art


A man kneels on a rock

PHOTO: Metro Land Council chief executive Nathan Moran says ancient artworks could be lost forever. (ABC News: Cameron Gooley)

The Beaches Link tollway will damage ancient Aboriginal sites and the habitats of vulnerable native animals, according to secret government plans seen by the ABC.

Key points

  • Almost 20 Aboriginal sites are under threat from the construction of the Beaches Link tollway
  • Blueprint warns some destruction "cannot be avoided"
  • Metro Land Council chief executive Nathan Moran is calling for them to have international protection

The tollway is slated to run between Rozelleand Sydney's northern beaches and is expected to cost $14 billion.

The project has already garnered controversy after the ABC exposed the location of smokestacks and toxic plumes along the route.

A 2016 "cabinet-in-confidence" blueprint lists dozens of major heritage impacts, many linked to creating a dual-carriageway road near Garigal National Park.

Almost 20 Aboriginal sites, including hand-painted rock shelters, ancient carvings, shell middens and burial sites, are listed as "key constraints" to the project.

The blueprint warns that for many sites "it will be difficult to justify major impacts" as middens and rock art have "high cultural or social significance" to Aboriginal and other community members.

It recommends stakeholders be told that some destruction "cannot be avoided".

Indigenous leader Nathan Moran said Sydney contained some of the world's earliest recorded artworks and Aboriginal people had not been consulted on the extensive plans.

"We should have the right to preserve and protect it, and to be honoured as such."

An engraved rock

PHOTO: This rock engraving depicts the spirit whale, symbolic to people of the Eora Nation. (ABC News: Cameron Gooley)

Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) chief executive Ken Kanofski said broad consultation on the expansion was underway but "if we need to do more, we're very happy to do more".

He said the RMS would also refine "part of the alignment" so the road-work "will have no impacts on the carvings".

A full Environmental Impact Statement on the project is expected next year.

Push for international recognition

Mr Moran said the State Government must recognise the rock-carving sites are interconnecting "sacred areas" and all need international protection.

Waterfront sites on the tollway, such as a whale carving at Balls Head and a secluded rock-art shelter at Clive Park, are also inside the construction zone.

The blueprint warns that blasting associated with roadworks can "cause damage to structures or objects", and that heritage items are "especially vulnerable to damage".

A sign PHOTO: Aboriginal rock engravings are protected. (ABC News: Cameron Gooley)

Where destruction of Aboriginal heritage is unavoidable, the document suggests "salvage excavation" — the removal of ancient objects — is an option.

Mr Kanofski said the expansion of an existing road reserve should not come as a surprise.

"A huge number of options have been looked at," he said.

"The options we've chosen are the ones that minimise the impact on the community and minimise the impact on the environment."

Sydney's biodiversity under threat

Two women inspect a bush

PHOTO: Wildlife activists Connie Harris (right) and Jacqui Marlow have campaigned for the protection of Duffy's Forest, a habitat for sugar gliders and pygmy possums. (ABC News: Cameron Gooley)

The removal of up to 10 hectares of bushland is another impact of the road, and the documents acknowledge this will eliminate animals and plants.

More than 60 threatened animal species live in the project footprint, including swamp wallabies, powerful owls and spotted quoll.

The blueprint said any disturbance of a colony of endangered Grey-Headed Flying Foxes, due to heavy noise or clearing of feed-trees, could trigger the need for Commonwealth approval.

The RMS has confirmed it will clear some of the last stands of Duffy's Forest, a rare Sydney woodland, along with groves of endangered wattles.

Local GP and environmentalist Connie Harris said this had shocked wildlife groups.

The removal of Red Gum forest near historic Artarmon Park, one of Australia's earliest cricket ovals, is also mentioned in the blueprint.

Millions of dollars of bio-banking offsets is suggested as a solution to habitat destruction.

However the blueprint warns that finding a suitable offset for Duffy's Forest will be "complex and relatively costly".

Deputy ALP Leader Penny Sharpe said she will cancel the project if Labor wins government in 2019.

Roads Minister Melinda Pavey was also approached for comment.


 

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