29 January 2007
Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
CANBERRA, ACT 2600
Dear Mr Turnbull,
Re: Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia
Congratulations on your appointment a few days ago to this key position in the government. With it come a number of headaches, but the one that I wish to raise concerns the Cultural Precinct of Dampier Archipelago.
Further to my nomination of the Precinct to the National Heritage (22 March 2004) I fully appreciate that you are facing a very difficult decision, left by your immediate predecessor. Another predecessor, Dr David Kemp, keenly supported the nomination of the Dampier monument to the World Heritage list and encouraged me to spearhead that process. His successor, Ian Campbell, was taken to one of the sites by me in May 2006 and was stunned by its significance. This is, after all, Australia’s greatest cultural heritage monument, and the world’s largest concentration of rock art.
Dampier is located in one of the country’s least populated regions, yet in 1962 the decision was made to establish a town and harbour amidst the world’s largest art gallery. This site complex, exceeding in importance easily the very much smaller monuments of, say, Stonehenge, Lascaux or the Taj Mahal, has been gradually destroyed ever since. Two years ago the total amount of rock art destroyed on the main island, Murujuga (falsely called Burrup Peninsula), was 24.4%, and since then the destruction has continued, and is continuing. The stone arrangement featured on the cover of my Dampier book no longer exists; the entire hill was bulldozed in May 2006 to make room for a tourist road. This was witnessed by Green leader Dr Bob Brown in the company of Senator Rachel Sievert and myself.
There are hundreds of suitable industrial sites up and down the coast, and dozens of potential harbour sites. In 1996 the then Liberal state government decided to allow no further industry at Dampier, and established an alternative huge site, the 160 km2 Maitland Heavy Industrial Estate. But the Labor government overturned this decision in late 2001, which led to our campaign a few months later. With the exception of Burrup Fertilisers, a small company that is already in deep economic trouble less than a year after it started production, all proponents Dr Gallop sought to attract have left Dampier due to the environmental issues. In short, Dampier is extremely controversial and will become a political quagmire.
However, the latest development is that Woodside Energy is now seeking to establish its new Pluto plant next to its Northwest Shelf operation. This will involve further destruction of rock art, stone arrangements and sacred sites. Every endeavour to convince the state government to move the plant to a more suitable location has failed, because it has already unwisely spent about $200 million on infrastructure. It now finds itself unable to admit to the public that it has made this planning mistake, there being an election late this year. Somehow, this matter needs to be resolved without needless damage to Australia’s international reputation, which an escalation of our campaign will engender.
I fully appreciate that you have a great many other important issues to attend to, concerning water and climate change for instance, but please, Mr Minister, the reconciliation of the Australian nation with its heritage is also of importance. It is now almost three years since the application for National Heritage listing was made. Could you please expedite this decision.
Thank you for your consideration. Yours sincerely,
Robert G. Bednarik
Convener and Editor, IFRAO
On 17 April, three years after the application by IFRAO to place the Dampier monument on the National Heritage List, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP announced that it will be listed by the middle of 2007.
Back to the home-page of the campaign to save the Dampier rock art
The home-page of the Australian Rock Art Research Association, Inc. (AURA)