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Burrup Peninsula

Question
Scott Ludlam 20 May 2011

Senate Question No. 219

Senator Ludlam asked the Minister representing the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, in writing, on 24 November 2010:

With reference to the Burrup (Murujuga) Peninsula which contains more than a million rock art engravings (petroglyphs) estimated to be up to 30 000 years old and, noting that on 3 July 2007 the area was listed as a National Heritage place by the Federal Government, there are concerns about the long delay in nominating the Burrup Peninsula for World Heritage listing, in addition to the continuous damage to the Burrup rock art:

(1) What is the current heritage status of the Burrup Peninsula.

(2) Of the 117 square kilometres covered by the Burrup Peninsula, how much is actually protected by National Heritage listing, as a percentage and surface area.

(3) When will the Aboriginal heritage management plan for the Burrup Peninsula being led by the Western Australian Department of Indigenous Affairs be finalised.

(4) Can a copy of the current management plan for the Burrup Peninsula be provided, including a breakdown of the level of funding and resources allocated to it.

(5) How is compliance and enforcement of the management plan currently being enacted.

(6) Is the Minister or the department aware of any vandalism, theft and graffiti of petroglyphs at the Burrup Peninsula.

(7) In regard to vandalism and potential theft of an Aboriginal petroglyph on the Burrup Peninsula and photographs contained in 2010-09-22 New Vandalism in Kangaroo Paw Valley.pdf at http://www.robinchapple.org.au/node/460:
(a) is the Minister or the department aware of the graffiti and attempted theft at this location; if so, what is the Minister doing to stop these illegal acts; if not, why not; and
(b) what action is the Minister taking to ensure that the identified geometric petroglyph is protected from theft.

(8) Have any investigations been conducted by the department on any other acts of vandalism, theft and/or graffiti of petroglyphs at the Burrup Peninsula.

(9) As the lead agency responsible for protection and management of national heritage places, what action will the department take to protect the site from future acts of vandalism or theft.

(10) Will rangers be appointed to protect the rock art.

(11) When will an information and interpretation centre be built at the site.

(12) When will the tentative Australian list for World Heritage listing be finalised.

(13) Has the Burrup Peninsula been proposed for the list or is it likely to be proposed for the tentative list.

(14) Is the department aware that for monuments and sites to be included on the World Heritage List they must satisfy at least one of six criteria, and that the age and quantity of the unique rock art of the Dampier Archipelago meets four criteria.

(15) Will the Minister disclose the response of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to the Federal Government's recent World Heritage listing nomination of solely 19 non-Aboriginal convict buildings.

(16) Is it correct that UNESCO is of the view that Australia should nominate more prehistoric rock art sites.

(17) Does the Federal Government therefore propose to nominate the Dampier Archipelago (the world's largest and oldest outdoor rock art gallery) for UNESCO World Heritage listing; if not, why not.

(18) When will the department follow up on the letter that the then Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, wrote to the Western Australian Minister Dr Judy Edwards MLA on 26 March 2003 with respect to the Commonwealth Government nominating some or all of the Dampier Archipelago and the Burrup non-industrial land to the World Heritage List.

(19) Noting that the Premier of Western Australia, Mr Colin Barnett, recently said on the SBS program Living Black on 10 October that ‘I have no doubt that the Burrup Peninsula will ultimately receive World Heritage listing however there is still a lot of work to be done of a scientific nature, in terms of cataloguing and recording', what action will the department take to assist in this process.

(20) Is the department concerned that the Western Australian Government continues to grant leases to dangerous industries on the Burrup, including the current application for an ammonium nitrate plant which triggered a record number of submissions to the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority due to its potential to destroy large amounts of rock art on the Burrup.

(21) Did federal approval of the $12 billion Pluto LNG plant include the protection of heritage values in the area.

(22) Is the department aware of reports that in February 2008 Woodside Petroleum cleared approximately 900 rock art carvings in preparation for the building of its Pluto LNG plant.

(23) Is the department aware that since the 1960s at least 10 000 petroglyphs on the Burrup Peninsula have been destroyed or relocated due to the heavy industrialisation in the area.

Senator Conroy: The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has provided the following answer to the honourable Senator's question:

(1) The Dampier Archipelago (including Burrup Peninsula) National Heritage Place was inscribed on the National Heritage List on 3 July 2007.

(2) The total area of the Dampier Archipelago (including Burrup Peninsula) Listed Place is 36,857 hectares.
The total area of the Burrup Peninsula is 11,806 hectares.
The total area of the National Heritage Place on the Burrup Peninsula is 8,074 hectares.
Therefore 68.4 percent of the Burrup Peninsula is covered by the National Heritage Place.

(3) The Western Australian Government will be responsible for the preparation of the management plan for the proposed Murujuga National Park (which comprises the majority of the Burrup Peninsula). The establishment of the jointly owned national park is pending legislative amendment by the Western Australian Parliament. Western Australian officials have advised that there is no set date for finalisation of the management plan.

(4) Please refer to the answer to question (3).

(5) Please refer to the answer to question (3).

(6) Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) the national heritage values of a listed place are protected as matters of national environmental significance. Proposed actions are thus regulated by the Australian Government to the extent that they may have a significant impact on the listed values. There are no matters of vandalism, theft or graffiti currently under investigation by the department.
The Western Australian Government is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Dampier Archipelago, including for offences that would not constitute significant impacts on matters of national environmental significance. Officials from the Western Australian and Australian governments liaise on possible lines of investigation in relation to claims of random theft or graffiti.

(7) (a) Yes, the department is aware of this incident. Please also refer to the answer to question (6).
(b) Please refer to the answer to question (6).

(8) Please refer to the answer to question (6).

(9) Please refer to the answer to question (6)

(10) I am advised that the Western Australian Government plans to appoint rangers (or wardens) as part of the management of the proposed Murujuga National Park, in consultation with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation.

(11) I am advised that the Western Australian Government has committed $8 million for buildings and infrastructure associated with the protection and promotion of the Burrup heritage area. I am advised infrastructure will be decided through discussions with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation under the Burrup and Maitland Industrial Estate Agreement.

(12) The World Heritage Tentative List was last updated in 2010, and the Environment Protection and Heritage Council agreed that further additions to the Tentative List may be considered in 2011.

(13) Under the World Heritage Intergovernmental Agreement the preparation of a world heritage nomination is the responsibility of the state or territory in which the place is located. The Western Australian Government has not proposed the Burrup Peninsula for inclusion on Australia's World Heritage Tentative List.

(14) The department is aware of the World Heritage criteria. As no assessment has been undertaken the department has no view on whether the criteria and threshold of outstanding universal value would be satisfied.

(15) The Australian Convict Sites were officially inscribed on the World Heritage List on 31 July 2010 at the 34th session of the World Heritage Committee in Brasilia. This World Heritage property is a serial inscription, which comprises 11 sites located across Australia.

(16) The Australian Government is not aware of any such views by UNESCO.

(17) The Australian Heritage Council will undertake an emergency assessment of the outstanding universal values of the Dampier Archipelago site and any threats to that site. I expect the Council to provide its draft report within six months. Once finalised, the Council's report will be made available to the public. The Australian Government will give careful consideration to the assessment provided by the Australian Heritage Council before deciding on next steps.

(18) Please refer to the answer to question (17).

(19) Please refer to the answer to question (17).

(20) The department is aware of, and currently assessing, two proposals for nitrates facilities on the Burrup Peninsula under the EPBC Act. Potential impacts on National Heritage values are being considered as part of this process. No decisions on approval have been taken.

(21) The Pluto Gas Project was referred to the then Minister under the EPBC Act on 1 August 2006. A Controlled Action decision was made on 24 August 2006, which was prior to the Dampier Archipelago (including Burrup Peninsula) being included on the National Heritage List. As national heritage values of the Dampier Archipelago (including Burrup Peninsula) were not listed as a matter of national environmental significance under the EPBC Act at the time of the referral decision, potential significant impacts on these values were not able to be considered as a controlling provision in the subsequent assessment of the project.

(22) The department is aware that relocation of rock art took place as part of the Pluto development, which is located outside the National Heritage Place.

(23) The department is aware that numbers of petroglyphs have been destroyed or relocated with approval by the responsible Western Australian Minister, under the Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972, but is not aware of precise numbers. 

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