• There's concerns that heritage sites on kunanyi could be impacted if construction of a cable car goes ahead. (Tourism Tasmania)Source: Tourism Tasmania
Private enterprise Mount Wellington Cableway Company (MWCC) has appealed against conducting an Aboriginal heritage assessment of kunanyi or Mount Wellington.
Bernadette Clarke

1 Apr 2021 - 6:42 PM  UPDATED 1 Apr 2021 - 6:46 PM

Standing tall over Hobart, Mount Wellington, or kunanyi in the Indigenous Tasmanian language of palawa kani, is home to a sandstone rock shelters and stone artefacts.

But it's not just the physical objects that hold importance; this Country is a link for the palawa-pakana people to their ancestors, and connects some to their creation story.

In a familiar story, development now threatens the site of kunanyi, as a private enterprise, Mount Wellington Cableway Company (MWCC), aims to build a cable car over the mountain. 

palawa woman and Manager at the Tasmania Aboriginal Land Council, Rebecca Digney told NITV News that kunanyi is special to those who live in lutruwita.

"It's just a part of who we are, it's just such a huge landmark and our people are so connected to that. It means a lot to our community."

In its proposal, the company says the cable car would measure up to 1000 metres of incline, a "centrepiece of our tourism venture... the most exciting mode of accessible transport with the lightest environmental footprint."

The palawa-pakana people are not convinced the development will make little impact on the site, and just last month the Hobart City Council demanded more information in relation to the project's impact on Aboriginal heritage.

The request was ruled lawful and reasonable by the Resource, Planning and Appeal Tribual (RMPAT). 

The Mt Wellington Cableway Company lodged a development application with the council in June 2019, providing a statement that an assessment had found “no Aboriginal heritage sites within proximity to the Base Station or tower locations”.

The Council requested a copy of the assessment at the time, but it wasn't provided until six months later. Upon inspection, it was revealed the company had been unable to bring in an Aboriginal Heritage consultant, instead stating they would alert authorities as they came across sites of significance. 

While the MWCC said it had provided a sufficient response, the Tribunal chair Marica Duvnjak said the information the Council originally requested was still required. 

The company has lodged a Supreme Court appeal of the tribunal's decision about the heritage assessment requirements, court documents from March 22 show.

Ms Digney says the legal protection of Aboriginal heritage and sites of cultural significance in Tasmania is fraught enough without companies flouting their responsibilities.

"For this company, when they've been told to comply with the law and to undertake these assessments, and then they try to negate that process, it shows an utter disrespect to Aboriginal people. It shows a lack of willingness to understand our connection to these places."

The palawa woman told NITV News that the cable company have no interest in understanding the significance of the site.

"For the Hobart City Council to have to take them to court... for them to look into the significance of the site shows a complete disregard and disrespect of the cultural significance of kunanyi."

Mount Wellington Cableway Company (MWCC) will have an uphill battle finding an Aboriginal heritage officer, as many in Tasmania have said they're not willing to work with the cable car company.

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