Pilbara News - - Front Page - Ali­cia Per­era

For years, high-tech in­dus­trial fa­cil­i­ties and rock art dat­ing back tens of thou­sands of years have co­ex­isted on Dampier’s Bur­rup Penin­sula, a sharp con­trast be­tween the mod­ern and an­cient spread across one vast land­scape.

But a Fed­eral Se­nate com­mit­tee in­quiry has called into ques­tion the ef­fects cur­rent lev­els of in­dus­try may be hav­ing on the area’s rich rock art, which has for decades been the sub­ject of a cam­paign for World Her­itage list­ing.

The in­quiry of the En­vi­ron­ment and Communications Ref­er­ences Com­mit­tee, called by Greens Sen­a­tor Rachel Siew­ert, is in­ves­ti­gat­ing a claim the sci­ence used to sup­port the CSIRO’s cur­rent acid de­po­si­tion limit of 200 mil­liequiv­a­lents per square me­tre a year was flawed.

Speak­ing at the in­quiry two weeks ago, Stock­holm En­vi­ron­ment In­sti­tute sci­en­tist Dr Jo­han Carl Ivar Kuylen­stierna, whose re­search was used as the ba­sis for that find­ing, said his work had looked at the sen­si­tiv­ity of ecosys­tems in­clud­ing marine en­vi­ron­ments and soil to acidic de­posits and ap­ply­ing it to rocks was “an in­ap­pro­pri­ate use of our sci­ence”.

CSIRO re­search group leader Dr Melita Key­ood said it had been the best in­for­ma­tion avail­able to them at the time.

Ms Siew­ert said the rev­e­la­tion meant the CSIRO had no guide as to whether cur­rent in­dus­try was safe or not for the rock art.

“The bot­tom line is that we ac­tu­ally don’t know what’s best — the lim­its were set on a flawed in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a re­port, and there’s not been the ad­e­quate proper re­search done on what the emis­sions should be and what the rocks could tol­er­ate,” she said.

Cur­rent in­dus­try on the Bur­rup in­cludes the Yara Pil­bara Fer­tilis­ers’ am­mo­nia plant, the Wood­side-op­er­ated North West Shelf Project oil and gas fa­cil­ity and iron ore ship­ping through the Dampier port.

Ms Siew­ert said if the in­quiry was suc­cess­ful, then in­dus­try would likely be re­quired to re­duce emis­sions but if it was not, the con­se­quences for the rock art could be dire.

“I’m very con­cerned about the fu­ture of the pet­ro­glyphs, which are way up there,” she said.

“Ev­ery­one says it is needs World Her­itage list­ing, they are the best in the world, the first rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a hu­man face — I could carry on for hours about that value of the Bur­rup.”

In his ev­i­dence given to the in­quiry, for­mer CSIRO as­sis­tant chief John Black said he was con­cerned in­dus­try emis­sions would crack and dis­colour the rock art and stim­u­late fun­gal growth, de­stroy­ing the rock art “within a rel­a­tively short pe­riod of time”.

Yara Pil­bara gen­eral man­ager Chris Ri­jk­sen also gave ev­i­dence, in which he said the com­pany had fol­lowed its in­dus­trial reg­u­la­tions on the Bur­rup.

“Con­trary to what has been sug­gested, Yara has met its obli­ga­tions in re­spect of her­itage mon­i­tor­ing, and the to­tal cu­mu­la­tive emis­sions was mod­elled and taken into ac­count in the works ap­proval process,” he said.

“In terms of rock art, Yara has been a will­ing par­tic­i­pant in the long­stand­ing pro­gram to mon­i­tor po­ten­tial im­pacts of in­dus­trial emis­sions.”

Mr Ri­jk­sen also said the com­pany had great re­spect for the re­gion’s tra­di­tional own­ers and its rock art, and sup­ported both World Her­itage list­ing of the Bur­rup and the es­tab­lish­ment of a Mu­ru­juga Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion Liv­ing Knowl­edge Cen­tre.

In­dus­trial en­ti­ties Orica, Wood­side, Rio Tinto Iron Ore and the Cham­ber of Min­er­als and En­ergy also made sub­mis­sions to the in­quiry.

Rio Tinto her­itage and agree­ments man­ager Gavin Martin said the com­pany did not be­lieve their emis­sions were dam­ag­ing the area’s rock art.

“Out­side our orig­i­nal devel­op­ment foot­prints, Rio Tinto busi­ness func­tions do not present ad­di­tional threat to the rock art nor Na­tional Her­itage values,” he said.

“In re­gard to the Se­nate terms of ref­er­ence, Rio Tinto do not be­lieve that our com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties are a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to the to­tal in­dus­trial pol­lu­tion load.”

Mu­ru­juga Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion rep­re­sents the five tra­di­tional owner groups of the Bur­rup but were not in­formed of or con­sulted for the in­quiry.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Craig Bon­ney said the hear­ing raised the is­sue that the Bur­rup, which he be­lieved was “the most cul­tur­ally sig­nif­i­cant place in Aus­tralia”, may not be ad­e­quately pro­tected from en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age.

“We don’t know the truth ei­ther way, and we are con­cerned if any dam­age is oc­cur­ring,” he said. “We have to trust the gov­ern­ments, both State and Com­mon­wealth, to do the right thing by our coun­try, to en­sure that they have a regime in place which pro­tects our en­vi­ron­ment.

“That’s the prom­ise they made to us and that’s the prom­ise they need to hold.”

Yabu­rara and Coastal Mard­hudunera Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion her­itage of­fi­cer Au­drey Cos­mos said she had no doubt cur­rent lev­els of in­dus­try were de­struc­tive for the an­cient rock carv­ings as a mat­ter of com­mon sense.

“It def­i­nitely is hurt­ing the rock art.

“You just look around here and how much devel­op­ment’s go­ing on,” she said.

“Over time it will de­stroy them be­cause you’ve got the rain, you’ve got the heat . . . their sub­stance that’s be­ing dis­persed out into the en­vi­ron­ment is def­i­nitely not go­ing to be healthy for our rock art. “It’s just com­mon sense.” She said it was im­por­tant to pre­serve the rock art to safe­guard the rich cul­tural his­tory and nat­u­ral beauty of the area.

“Not only for the tra­di­tional own­ers but also it’s for ev­ery­one — this beauty’s for ev­ery­one to en­joy,” she said.

“There is no na­tive ti­tle of the Bur­rup. It truly is for the pub­lic.”

Ms Siew­ert said the in­quiry also tied into the long-run­ning de­bate over World Her­itage list­ing for the Bur­rup on the mat­ter of strong en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion.

“Just be­cause it’s not World Her­itage listed yet doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the values,” she said.

“World Her­itage list­ing, it re­quires then bet­ter man­age­ment and to en­sure that those values are pro­tected.”

Pic­ture: Rourke Walsh

Ken Mul­vaney with rock art found on the Bur­rup Penin­sula.

Pic­ture: Ken Mul­vaney

En­graved tur­tles in Mu­ru­juga Na­tional Park.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

The Yara fer­tiliser and Tech­ni­cal Am­mo­nia Ni­trate plants on the Bur­rup Penin­sula.

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