From News Ltd
Farmers in Western Australia are furious about sweeping new cultural heritage laws that will require them to pay an Aboriginal consultant up to $160 an hour to obtain permits to do anything on their land that might disturb more than 50 centimetres of soil.
Locals have warned that the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021, which comes into effect on July 1, could bring economic activity to a halt while empowering a vast new layer of bureaucracy to “hold businesses to ransom” with costly red tape.
The key change under the new Act is the establishment of Local Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Services, or LACHS, which will be responsible for determining whether an activity will cause “harm” to cultural heritage.
Under a complex three-tiered system, anyone on more than 1100 square metres of land will be required to apply for a permit from their LACHS before carrying out certain activities, such as digging fences, planting trees or clearing tracks.
Penalties for damaging a cultural heritage site range from $25,000 to $1 million for individuals and $250,000 to $10 million for corporations, as well as jail time.
The state government has defended the changes, saying it comes after years of “extensive consultation”.
But WA Farmers president John Hassell said landowners feared the “open-ended” system could be abused.
“There wouldn’t be a grower in the state that doesn’t want to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage,” he said.
“The challenge we’ve got is you can see cultural heritage when it’s a burial site or meeting place, but you can’t see spiritual stuff — that is subject to change. You can’t do a survey on your place and have it marked out forever after because someone can come along later and say this is a spiritual place.”
Instead of farmers’ organisations saying to the government “we will not comply” with this blackfella land grab, they glibly fall in place and hope this draconian policy won’t harm them.
Where is the NFF?