Aboriginal heritage key to Margaret River trail

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Residents demanded better environmental oversight and Aboriginal heritage recognition at a community meeting on the project in 2017.
Camera IconResidents demanded better environmental oversight and Aboriginal heritage recognition at a community meeting on the project in 2017. Credit: Augusta Margaret River Times

Conservationists who opposed the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River’s winter diversion project and brought failures in the process to light are keenly awaiting the outcome of further consultation to see if the project will be finished.

The contentious project dominated headlines last year after conservationists and the Friends of the Cape-to-Cape Track went head-to-head over the project originally planned as a route for walkers be-tween Margaret River and the coast.

But work on the track started without environmental or Aboriginal heritage consultation, and the unfinished route was closed after a council decision last June to stop walkers damaging sections of the Margaret River riparian zone

Shire infrastructure director Markus Botte said a sleeve of private land, approved by the council, had been acquired for the project to progress.

“The land purchase is required to protect an environmentally sensitive melaleuca paperbark wetland area and to increase the protective foreshore buffer to the Margaret River in perpetuity,” he said.

“The associated land subdivision process is currently under way, with the land to be excised and transferred to the Shire as foreshore reserve in the near future.”

A cost of about $200,000 was previously cited during council meetings, but the Shire declined to confirm that.

Mr Botte said the trail’s final alignment was still to be determined through consultation with traditional owners, conservationists, and the Friends.

“Since the works along the river have the potential to adversely affect Aboriginal heritage, with the Margaret River being an important registered Aboriginal heritage site, the Shire will need to reach an agreement with the traditional owners and obtain their written authorisation prior to commencing any works,” he said.

“Hence, consent to the implementation under the provisions of the Aboriginal Heritage Act will need to be sought and the Shire is hopeful that eventual construction can be completed by mid-2020.”

Friends president Kevin Lange said the Shire was “working steadily” to finish the trail.

“We fully expect the trail will be completed,” he said.

“We also appreciate that some steps involve negotiation and that negotiating can take some time.”

Margaret River Regional Environment Centre committee member Ray Swarts said it remained to be seen if Aboriginal approval would be given.

He said one of the positives to emerge was more awareness of the environment.

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