The federal Environment Minister has taken emergency action to stop the construction of a go-kart track atop a sacred Indigenous site on Bathurst’s famous Mount Panorama-Wahluu.
Bathurst Regional Council had planned to start building a go-kart track on Monday at the summit of the New South Wales mountain, which is widely referred to as the home of Australian motorsport.
For years, many local Indigenous people have campaigned against the development, saying the park contains a sacred women’s site in fenced-off bushland.
Their legal representatives say the loss of the sacred site would be akin to the destruction of Juukan Gorge — a culturally significant cave site in the Pilbara region of Western Australia that was destroyed by mining giant Rio Tinto last year.
Elders argued that building the go-kart track at Mount Panorama would damage their cultural heritage and the shape of the mountain more broadly.
Today, Environment Minister Sussan Ley announced she would grant an application by the Wiradyuri Traditional Owners Central West Aboriginal Corporation (WTOCWAC) to prevent work beginning for 30 days, under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act.
She will travel to Bathurst next week to determine whether a second application, which would grant the site permanent protection, was warranted.
The council has also agreed to a ‘cease work order’, issued at a hearing in the Sydney Supreme Court today, following legal action on behalf of the corporation.
It comes after last-minute letters from the corporation’s lawyers, seen by the ABC, were sent to the Bathurst Regional Council and various state and federal ministers, to plead for the site to be protected.
“The question of protection of Wahluu … [bears] a striking similarity to the well-publicised destruction of Juukan Gorge by Rio Tinto in May 2020,” the lawyers wrote.
“While time is short, the Department and the Minister have the opportunity to protect Wahluu and its cultural heritage from destruction by Bathurst Regional Council.”
In a statement, the council’s general manager, David Sherley, said the council was considering its options in regard to the two matters.
‘The fight’s not over’
Wiradjuri man Jade Flynn, also known as Yanhadarrambal, said he was “elated” by the decision.
“We’ve got a lot of joy in our hearts,” Mr Flynn said.
“The fight’s not over, but we do feel like this particular battle has had a good result.”
The Wiradyuri elder welcomed the news of Ms Ley’s planned visit, and said he and the wider corporation would “love” to speak with her.
“This does lighten the load a little bit, but it’s not the end,” he said.
“Having a go-kart track on that site means that connection is severed forever — that’s a thousands-of-years-old connection with our people that’s just taken away.”
The ABC has contacted the Bathurst Kart Club for comment.
Calls for track to be built elsewhere
The decision comes after NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge passed a motion in the state Upper House last month to call on the council to move the track.
The motion states the Upper House notes Mount Panorama-Wahluu is “a place of enormous importance to the Wiradjuri people as a significant site in the cultural songlines of the region”.
Mr Flynn said the Aboriginal corporation wanted the track to be built, but on a different site.
“The go-kart club is a legitimate and valued part of our community,” Mr Flynn said
“It’s just the position that’s the point of contestation here, it’s not the activity itself, it’s just where they want to do it is absolutely wrong as far as we’re concerned.”
Mr Sherley had earlier said scheduling the work to begin on International Women’s Day had not intended to cause disrespect.
“The commencement date was based on availability of access to the site around key motorsport events, hence the start date of March 8,” he said.
Source: Thanks msn.com