Aboriginal artefacts and significant and sacred sites in and around Sydney's Ku-ring-gai area may be under threat from a proposed new toll road linking Rozelle to the Northern Beaches.
The ABC reports it has seen documents that show blueprints for the Beaches Link tollway – estimated to cost $14 billion – which will ruin almost 20 ancient Indigenous sites as well as habitats of vulnerable native animals if the project goes ahead.
Hand-painted rock shelters, ancient carvings, shell middens and burial sites are in the path of the proposed toll-way and are listed as “key constraints” to the project.
A 2016 “cabinet-in-confidence” blueprint shows areas around the dual-carriageway road near Garigal National Park will be affected the most.
ABC has reported the blueprint warns that for many sites "it will be difficult to justify major impacts" as middens and rock art have "high cultural or social significance" to Indigenous Australians.
The blueprint also says that some destruction “cannot be avoided”.
Nathan Moran, CEO of Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (Metro LALC) told NITV News he understands the proposals are for the expansion of the Wakehurst Pathway, where registered midden sites and rockwork located within metres of the road would be destroyed if the road is expanded.
“All sites are very important. I mean, it’s an attribute to our history, a connection to the oldest human culture on Earth,” Mr Moran said.
“We’re talking about ... engraved rock art of whale spirits. Some of the only carvings you’ll ever see – particularly in that area – at that spot, some of the last remaining.”
Mr Moran said there has been no consultation about the proposal.
A complete Environmental Impact Statement is expected next year.
According to the ABC, the documents suggests “salvage excavation” – or the removal of ancient objects - will occur where the destruction of Aboriginal artefacts or heritage is deemed unavoidable.
The blueprint further warns that heritage objects are “especially vulnerable to damage” and that blasting associated with roadworks can “cause damage to structure or objects”.
Mr Moran said he struggled to understand how Indigenous sites are treated with less respect than a shipwreck.
“We heard recently that there is a million dollar fine for people coming into contact with a shipwreck in Western Australia. We’d like to think that the same importance, if not paramount priority, [is] shown to our culture and heritage that’s registered as cultural and heritage sites,” Mr Moran said.
Roads and Maritime Services chief executive Ken Kanofski told ABC that consultation on the toll road is underway and will continue to consult with Indigenous communities if required to.
Mr Moran said if the construction was to go ahead, Metro LALC will provide submissions in order to argue their opposition to the project.
“Actions include ... putting in a submission to state our case, or our opposition, in regards to the proposal," Mr Moran said. He said Metro LALC also hopes its dissatisfaction to the project could influence others to oppose the plans.
Native animals under threat
Up to 10 hectares of bushland will be removed in order to make room for the toll road, with project documents accepting that this will see the clearing of flora and threats to fauna, including swamp wallabies, spotted quoll, owls and the the endangered grey-headed Flying Foxes.
“Culture’s not just something stuck in art or on stone," said Mr Moran. "The living breathing culture of the area is under great threat."
“Wakehurst Parkway, the dam, Garigal National Park provides refuge for some of the most important, endangered and threatened species that there is in Eora Country.”
Roads and Maritime Services have confirmed they will clear almost all that’s left of Duffy’s Forest in Sydney, home to endangered wattles.
Deputy Australian Labor Party Leader Penny Sharpe has said she will cancel the project if Labor comes into government next year.