THE NSW government authority entrusted with protecting Aboriginal heritage from mining and development has not launched a single prosecution in three years despite being repeatedly advised of significant unauthorised heritage destruction.
NSW laws that were supposed to protect Aboriginal heritage instead allowed the managed destruction of it, Greens MP and heritage spokesman David Shoebridge said after the Office of Environment Heritage responded to questions in parliament.
The Office of Environment Heritage investigated half the 62 complaints of unauthorised destruction of heritage sites it received last year, but did not prosecute in any case. Eleven were for mine-related activities.
The Office of Environment Heritage approved all 82 Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permits it received in 2013/14, allowing industries including mining to destroy heritage areas.
The issue is of particular concern in the Hunter region where newly-registered native title claimant, the Wonnarua people, has alleged mining companies have been able to destroy heritage sites by obtaining favourable reports from paid Aboriginal consultants from outside the Hunter.
Wonnarua spokesman Scott Franks said the registration of his group as native title claimant would force mines to negotiate with his group which is determined to protect remaining heritage sites.
Mr Shoebridge said the government’s Aboriginal heritage reforms had stalled.
“For miners and developers it is never a question of will they get a permit to destroy, the only issue is if they have to take a photo, or keep a remnant before they destroy a site.’’
The Office of Environment and Heritage said permits were only issued where it was ‘‘legal, appropriate and acceptable following consultation with the Aboriginal community’’.