LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – On the eve of today’s emergency application to Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt for protection of the national park from oil and gas exploration and mining, Mr Giles made unsubstantiated claims of divisions among the traditional owners.
He said he would seek the advice of the NT’s Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority (AAPA).
The senior traditional owners of Watarrka have made it very clear for a long time that they oppose any mining exploration anywhere in the park and have been very firm and united in their opposition.
This group does not always see eye to eye but at no point in the past three years has any traditional owner come forward at a joint management meeting or any other valid traditional owner meeting about Watarrka who has expressed a different view about exploration and mining in the park.
Mr Giles can talk to AAPA all he likes. He should know that it has no responsibility to seek the consent of traditional owners on development proposals in Watarrka and could only consult with custodians about protecting sacred sites.
It’s the Central Land Council that represents Aboriginal people under the NT Parks Act and has a duty under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act to express the wishes of Aboriginal people in the region more broadly.
It’s time for Mr Giles to put up or shut up.
He needs to come clean to voters: does he respect the joint management process and the decision of the senior traditional owners of Watarrka to oppose mining exploration in the national park?
Or is he going to continue to ignore the collective authority of the traditional owner representatives on the joint management committee because he and his government don’t like the consistent and united stand they have taken?
The traditional owners and the CLC have tried very hard to engage the government on this issue. Today’s emergency application for federal heritage protection of the park shows that traditional owners don’t trust the Giles government.
David Ross (pictured)
Director, Central Land Council