10/10/2006 - 22:00

Court to hear airport case

10/10/2006 - 22:00

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Perth Airport lease-holder Westralia Airports Corporation is to face court in December, accused by the state government of damaging an Aboriginal heritage site during land clearing in preparation for the new $100 million Coles Myer Distribution Centre.

Perth Airport lease-holder Westralia Airports Corporation is to face court in December, accused by the state government of damaging an Aboriginal heritage site during land clearing in preparation for the new $100 million Coles Myer Distribution Centre.

In what could be a test case concerning the state government’s right to control activities on federal land, Westralia received a summons last week from the Perth Magistrate’s Court, alleging a breach of the Western Australian Heritage Act 1972.

It is an offence under the act to excavate or alter an Aboriginal heritage site without the consent of the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

The charge follows an investigation by the Department of Indigenous Affairs into allegations that an Aboriginal site of archeological importance had been damaged sometime between September 2005 and April 2006.

The site in question is understood to be in a remote area adjacent to the southern main drain in the Kewlink East estate, where clearing of up to 25 hectares of land has occurred to make way for the regional distribution centre, approved by the federal government in July.

Perth Airport general manager property, Neil Kidd, said in a statement that Perth Airport was unaware of any wrongdoing, and would work closely with the relevant authorities to resolve the matter.

“Perth Airport takes the preservation of indigenous heritage very seriously,” Mr Kidd said.

“It has worked closely with the state and federal governments over several years to identify significant sites, and has put clear plans in place to preserve them.

“In total, over 300 hectares of airport land [out of 2,105 hectares] has been set aside for its ecological and cultural value.

“All major developments at Perth Airport are closely regulated by legislation and subject to federal government approval.

“Property development proposals must accord with the Airports Act 1996, the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders Heritage Protection Act 1984.”

The question of whose environmental and planning laws should apply to property developments on Airport land has been a bone of contention between state and federal governments for some time.

The issue recently came to a head when Len Buckeridge’s BGC Australia was granted federal approval in August to build a $75 million brickworks on airport land despite strong opposition from the Carpenter government.

In the same month, the state’s Planning and Infrastructure Minister, Alannah MacTiernan, expressed a desire to see state environmental and planning laws applied to non-aviation activities, and an independent panel established to assess related development proposals on airport land.

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