Tasmania Bypass Go-Ahead Intensifies Protest

The Mercury December 18, 2010


Protesters were last night descending on an internationally significant Aboriginal heritage site north of Hobart, after the Tasmanian Government approved construction of an elevated four-lane highway over the area.

In what could turn into one of the biggest environmental battles since the Franklin Dam in the early 1980s, a tent city was being established on the banks of the Jordan River at Brighton.

Archaeologists believe Tasmanian Aborigines have continuously visited and camped for the past 40,000 years on the Jordan River levee.

Tasmanian Heritage Minister Brian Wightman yesterday approved completion of the $177 million Brighton bypass highway above the ancient site, ignoring objections from Aboriginal groups and many concerned Tasmanians.

After just two weeks as minister, Mr Wightman said it was a difficult but balanced decision made in the "best interests of all Tasmanians".

He said the highway bridge would protect rather than destroy the buried treasure below and result in the safest road for all Tasmanians.

But Aboriginal leader Michael Mansell condemned the decision as cultural vandalism and heritage destruction.

An angry Mr Mansell branded it a "lousy decision" made by ignorant politicians and bureaucrats after a "sham" consultation process.

Tasmanian Greens leader and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Nick McKim called the decision a travesty and distressing.

If the Tasmanian Government is willing to destroy Aboriginal heritage dating back 40,000 years, what hope do we have of protecting other ancient heritage in Tasmania?

We must all fight for the protection of Aboriginal Heritage before it's too late.

Contact the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre on
1800 132 260 or visit www.tacinc.com.au
YOU can help save this unique panaroma of Tasmanian history


David O'Byrne MHA
Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage
Parliament House
Tasmania 7000
Honourable Tony Burke MP
Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
PO Box 324,
Kingsgrove NSW 1480


Message of solidarity

"Socialist Alliance supports the struggle of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community to protect their cultural heritage at Kutalayna, the site of the proposed Brighton Bypass bridge over the Jordan River. The Socialist Alliance and left political organisations in Australia have a long history of supporting Aboriginal rights (see The Aboriginal Struggle and the Left, Terry Townsend, 2009). We recognise Australia as Aboriginal land, and we note the absence of any treaty with Aboriginal people and nations to hand over this land to any other government. The nation of Australia is based on land taken forcefully, in ways that are not legally or morally acceptable.

Read More Indymedia.org

Levee listing bypass doubts

Charles Waterhouse The Mercury December 24, 2010

Confusion reigned yesterday over the implications of a decision by federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to give emergency heritage listing to a 40,000-year-old Aboriginal site near the Jordan River, in the path of the Brighton bypass project.

Australian Greens leader and Tasmanian senator Bob Brown said preliminary legal advice from Hobart lawyer Roland Browne was that the listing should stop the bypass, north of Hobart, proceeding.

And Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre legal director Michael Mansell said Mr Browne's advice, subject to more detailed legal opinion, seemed valid.

But Mr Burke, who described the Jordan River site as exceptionally important to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community, said his advice was it would not prevent the roadworks proceeding.

He said the Australian Heritage Council would now do an assessment of the site and make a recommendation to him by October next year.

Senator Brown said the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act was based on the precautionary principle of emergency listing.

Though the listing was not permanent, the site was protected until an assessment was completed and until Mr Burke decided on permanent protection.

Mr Mansell said if Mr Browne's legal opinion was correct and the State Government continued to push ahead with planned construction, an application could be made to the High Court for an injunction to stop the bulldozers.

But Tasmania's Environment Minister Brian Wightman, who last week approved building a 70m fly-over bridge above the Jordan River, said he understood the listing had no effect on his decision.

He said the State Government recognised the cultural significance of the site, which was why it would spend an extra $12 million for a bridge with reduced impact.

Mr Wightman said it was the biggest ever spending to protect Aboriginal heritage in Tasmania and demonstrated the importance placed on the levee site.

Mr Mansell said the emergency listing as one of Australia's outstanding heritage places was a great boost.

"The listing places the significance of the Jordan River area alongside Kakadu National Park, Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef," he said.

"This is just a wonderful Christmas present to the people of Tasmania from the Australian Government."

He also said the Aboriginal community was grateful to Tasmanians for their public support for recognising the site's significance.

He said the crossing could be achieved by a bridge without supports in the contentious area, or by diverting it via one of the eight alternatives considered by Government.

About 15 people from the Aboriginal community continued a presence at the levee yesterday.

Community member Aaron Everett said Mr Burke's decision was great news and a message to the State Government to look at alternatives.

Opposition heritage spokesman Matthew Groom said an emergency listing that did not stop the bridge was just window dressing trying to cover a botched government process.

Commonwealth help sought

ABC News 23rd December, 2010
It has been revealed the Commonwealth is seeking an independent review of the Tasmanian Government's approval of the Brighton Bypass.

The State Government last week approved construction of a bridge over the Jordan River Levee site, which contains ancient aboriginal artefacts.

Tasmanian Aborigines have today called for a Commission of Inquiry into the process.

It has also been revealed the Federal Government is engaging an independent company to review the state government's decision to approve construction of a bridge over the bypass site.

Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown says he has been told by the Commonwealth they will review the process and costings involved in the approval.

"Governments are now challenged with making a good decision out of a bad planning process," he said.

A meeting of about 100 Aborigines at the bypass site voted to seek support for an immediate ban on all Aboriginal heritage surveys.

They plan to write to heritage officers and archaeologists working in Tasmania, requesting they walk off the job.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre's Michael Mansell says the ban would cripple a number of projects across the state.

"The effect of that ban will be to put on hold all projects in Tasmania that have not already had an Aboriginal survey," he said.

"So it could effect Kingston, it could effect the Bagdad bypass, it will certainly effect the gas pipeline behind Westbury and a range of other projects."

The State Government has been contacted for comment.

Bypass 'crime' blasted

Camp on Brighton Bypass site
Camp on Brighton Bypass site

Matt Smith The Mercury December 20th, 2010

The archaeologist who discovered the Jordan River levee site has slammed the State Government's approval of a four-lane Brighton bypass over the 40,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site.

Tim Stone yesterday called on the Federal Government to stop the planned bridge, just as it did with the Kutikina Cave in the Wild Rivers National Park in 1983.

"They stepped in for Kutikina and I cannot see why this site should be any different," Dr Stone said.

"Kutikina is a significant site but the Jordan River levee site blows it out of the water, so they have to step in."

Dr Stone said the discovery of Kutikina Cave in 1983 stunned the world because it offered a snapshot of 2000 to 3000 years in the life of the most southerly people on the planet at the height of the last glacial period.

In contrast, the Jordan River levee site contains a sequence virtually uninterrupted from the present to nearly 40,000 years ago, he said.

"Kutikina is a snapshot in time of profound interest to all humankind. The Jordan River flood plain contains the whole movie reel."

Dr Stone said the State Government and the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources had made a complete mess of planning and construction at the site.

"BP made a colossal mess in the Gulf Of Mexico and they had to clean up their mess at whatever cost," he said. "Now DIER have done exactly the same thing and they should be made to clean up their mess at whatever cost. I think they are criminally culpable."

Dr Stone tabled a report highlighting the cultural significance of the site in 2008.

Yesterday, he said his recommendations had been ignored and there had been a significant "abuse of process" in relation to the site.

Dr Stone urged all Tasmanian's to get behind the push to reverse the State's Government's decision.

"This is about heritage. Aboriginal heritage is Australian heritage, which is world heritage," Dr Stone said.

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