• Aboriginal leaders in Tasmania are "over the moon" after the state government ruled out reopening 4WD tracks on culturally significant land. (AAP)Source: AAP
The Tasmanian Liberal Government had promised to reopen the tracks at the 2014 election, but a cultural assessment report and community pushback has seen them concede.
10 Aug 2021 - 10:34 AM  UPDATED 10 Aug 2021 - 10:34 AM

Tasmania's government has ruled out reopening 4WD tracks on culturally significant land in the state's rugged west, ending a near decade-long battle.

A recent cultural assessment report found the three tracks in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area directly intersect 35 Aboriginal heritage sites and potentially put another 26 at risk.

The off-road tracks were shut in 2012 under the Labor-Greens government but the ruling Liberal state government pledged to reopen them during their successful 2014 election campaign.

On Monday, Parks Minister Jacquie Petrusma announced the government would no longer pursue reopening the tracks.

'We are over the moon," Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre CEO Heather Sculthorpe told AAP.

"We are so happy that after nearly a decade this has come to an end. The Aboriginal community has been doing everything we can to stop this rubbish."

The recent report also found the government's reopening plan did not do enough to minimise risk to the sites, which contain Indigenous middens and burial grounds.

Speaking after the release of last month's report, Aboriginal Land Council chairman Michael Mansell told AAP that it had "killed" the idea of reopening the tracks. 

Palawa leaders urge Tas government to keep 4WD tracks closed
A report released this week found 35 Aboriginal heritage sites directly intersect the tracks, while another 26 are potentially at risk.

"What is there has to be preserved and managed by Aboriginal people," Mr Mansell said.

"It has a beauty of its own. To go into such a wild area and see the manifestation of a peoples' existence for thousands and thousands of years right in front of you.

"Run over it with 4WDs and what are you going to look at? Tyre tracks."

The Liberal government had a legal challenge against the tracks' closure dismissed by the Federal Court in 2016.

Minister Petrusma said the government will invest $10 million into a program to provide new and improved recreational driving opportunities on the west coast.

State Greens leader Cassy O'Connor said plans to reopen the tracks were "always going to fail".

"Let's hope this provides an opportunity for a genuine reset with Aboriginal Tasmanians and that their priceless heritage is never again kicked around like a political football for short-term gain," she said.

Another of the state's long-running cultural heritage disputes was recently settled, after the Hobart city council voted 9-3 against the approval of a cable car on kunanyi (aka Mount Wellington). 

The company behind the proposal was accused by local Aboriginal leaders of failing to engage properly with the community, and had not undertaken the necessary cultural heritage investigations. 

Cable car development on sacred Tasmanian mountain rejected
An application to develop on kunanyi/Mount Wellington has been defeated nine votes to three at a special Hobart City Council meeting last night.