Estimates: Progress on the World Heritage listing of the Dampier Archipelago and Burrup

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Senator LUDLAM: I have a couple of quick questions on Western Australia. It has now been more than two years since the emergency assessment of outstanding values of the Dampier Archipelago and the Burrup Peninsula—or Murujuga, as it has been known for time immemorial—was completed. Can you give us an update as to how the World Heritage nomination of that Burrup rock art province is progressing, please.

 

Mr Routh : There has been a lot of work with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation there.

Senator LUDLAM: Great.

Mr Routh : That is not specifically in relation to World Heritage nomination. The idea—and I think we may have covered this ground at the last estimates—is to be working with Murujuga in particular in order to identify relevant studies to be done. It may be that in the future they will identify relevant studies that could feed into World Heritage nomination. But at this stage it is not a priority in the process.

Senator LUDLAM: The exchange you are referring to is from last May. On 29 May we received a reply back from you, so thank you for that. It related to the discussions you had had with the Murujuga corporation. But you are waiting for them to identify studies. Is that a little bit odd?

Mr Routh : No. It is an interactive process between Murujuga, ourselves and the two companies that fund activities through conservation agreements, including the rangers in that area.

Senator LUDLAM: When is the archipelago or the province going to be placed on the tentative World Heritage List? What is the best-case scenario, you would say, to have it listed?

Mr Routh : That is entirely a matter for the government in terms of when and whether they want to pursue putting something on to the tentative list.

Senator LUDLAM: But what efforts are you making with the state government? For example, have you identified whether Premier Barnett is supportive of World Heritage listing of the peninsula?

Mr Routh : I am not aware of us having formal discussions with the WA government. That would be down the track. As with any usual procedure to do with World Heritage nomination, you would be seeking the agreement of the state government.

Senator LUDLAM: But it is a bit shy of a year since I raised this. In fact, Senator Siewert has been raising this since long before I got here, and so did others before her. When you say it is 'down the track', are we talking decades down the track? When are we going to see some movement? What are we waiting on?

Mr Routh : I cannot speculate on the timing but in working with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, for instance, there was a several-day meeting in Dampier in October last year that identified a number of priority projects. Those projects have been agreed between the three parties so there is active work underway in terms of the priorities that the community have identified.

Senator LUDLAM: In terms of the values of the area it sounds as though—I do not want to paraphrase you or verbal you—it is incumbent on the Murujuga corporation to take the initiative to get this rolling. Are you waiting on them?

Mr Routh : We are not waiting on them, we are working with them.

Senator LUDLAM: What will it actually take to get a world heritage nomination afoot?

Mr Routh : It would take a range of things—it would include, fundamentally, support from the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and the traditional owners. It would also include support from the state government and consultation with other relevant parties.

Senator LUDLAM: Do you believe Murujuga is supportive, or is that still ambiguous to you?

Mr Routh : I cannot speculate on what their position is. I do not think they have publicly stated a position on it.

Senator LUDLAM: That is important information. Thank you. I had an exchange with the Bureau of Meteorology this morning. We were discussing a matter that I think I have raised with you—although it might have been some time ago—around industrial emissions from the gas plants and other industry on the Burrup that has actually been recorded as rainfall events by the Bureau of Meteorology because the pollution is so thick it returns a radar bounce. They have not been able to really shed much light—

Senator Birmingham: They have not completely confirmed that—

Senator LUDLAM: No, I was just saying that they were not able to shed much light this morning. They identified a range of other things that it could also be. What you have said, in your answer of 29 May last year, is:

In the meantime, the listed National Heritage values of the Dampier Archipelago will continue to be acknowledged and protected under Commonwealth environment law.

What can you point to to give me, other residents up there, and others with an interest in the area, any comfort at all that the values are being protected from industrial emissions?

Mr Routh : I think that statement is correct. I think, also, that if there was an update to the text from last time it would be our environmental assessment division that would have an update on some information on that in the November estimates.

Senator LUDLAM: That does not help me a great deal.

Mr Routh : It is in the next outcome, is the short answer.

Senator LUDLAM: As in, environmental regulation is the next outcome?

 

Mr Routh : Yes.