Tree planting event canceled after tribal corporation demands payment of $2.5 million for approval
Whadjuk Aboriginal Corporation claims $2.5m over WA’s cultural heritage laws creating more destructive tree-planting event on Perth River
Two major tree planting events were canceled after an Aboriginal corporation demanded a $2.5 million payment in exchange for their endorsement.
Landcare volunteers were convinced to roll up their sleeves to plant 5500 saplings along Perth’s Canning River over the weekend.
But events never progressed after a $2.5m claim from the newly formed Whadjuk Aboriginal Corporation, fueling confusion about Western Australia’s new Aboriginal Heritage Act.
Its chief executive David Collard told land stewardship groups that the plantings could not go ahead because of the Aboriginal group’s ongoing dispute with the West Australian government over funding.
The decision has baffled conservation groups and community leaders, including four local mayors.
Wadzuk Aboriginal Corporation chief executive David Collard (pictured) told Landcare Group that two tree plantings could not go ahead.
The saplings are now at risk of dying and are feared to be wasted.
Stephen Johnston of South East Regional Landcare told Seven News, ‘We need to get them down to the ground to make the most of the wet soil.’
‘We’ve got lots of land groups across Perth and in WA, whose work is vital to meeting the environmental objectives of Commonwealth, State and local government, it’s not just a nice thing to have, it’s critical.’
Pat Hart added: ‘We’ve got four dams in Canning, it’s in real trouble. Time… we can’t wait. We have to move on.’
It comes after WA’s revamped Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act came into effect with tougher penalties for damaging sites of traditional importance.
Many rivers, creeks and other tributaries are now considered anthropogenic sites, requiring the highest level of assessment for alteration.
Canning River is one of those now recognized as a site of Aboriginal cultural importance.
At least three community tree-planting events have been canceled since the new law took effect a fortnight ago.
Thousands of saplings were to be planted along Perth’s Canning River (pictured).
City of Canning Mayor Patrick Hall (left) and land conservation advocates are outraged by the decision.
Frustrated mayors have pleaded with the WA Government to step in and fix the problem.
We stand here today in solidarity with these environmental groups and say, somebody needs to clarify this law — it’s become a bit of a mess,’ said City of Canning Mayor Patrick Hall.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Booty released a statement saying the matter had nothing to do with WA’s ‘modern’ laws.
He personally called the community leaders associated with CR Hall, Seven News reported.
Shadow Defense Minister Andrew Hastie, who is also the federal member for Canning, wants the new laws scrapped.
‘The Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Acts are only two weeks old, and already an Aboriginal corporation is using them to demand millions of dollars,’ he wrote on Sunday night.
‘It’s time to repeal these divisive laws by (WA Premier) Roger Cook.’
The latest tensions erupted when two Aboriginal elders clashed over the right to hold a smoking ceremony, a week after the opening of the $232 million Mitchell Freeway extension descended into chaos.
Deputy Minister Rita Safioti was seen hurrying away to consult with an official at the launch while Wadzak Nungar man Steve Jacobs rode with another Aboriginal man over the right to officiate the event.
Thousands of saplings that were supposed to be planted are now in danger of dying
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