WA property owners fear 'worthless' land as indigenous heritage laws take effect

West Australian landowners express concerns over new laws that may render properties valueless due to costly Aboriginal heritage surveys.

WA property owners fear 'worthless' land as indigenous heritage laws take effect
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West Australian property owners fear the state’s controversial cultural heritage laws will render their properties “worthless”.

A landowner told The West Australian this week that he had been told an Aboriginal heritage survey on her 4000 square metre residential block would cost more than $20,000.

The irony is that the landowner is, himself, Aboriginal.

The survey was required before he would be permitted to clear the block to construct a family home on the Cape Range peninsula.

According to the WA Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, nearly the entire Cape Range peninsula is deemed “culturally sensitive” as part of the “Warnangura Cultural Precinct”.

New laws, which came into effect on July 1, make it an offence to damage a cultural heritage site.

Landowners who inadvertently or otherwise disturb places of Indigenous significance face penalties of up to $1 million as well as jail time.

The landowner told The West Australian he had been told the survey to establish whether or not he could build a home on his own property would cost $20,000 which comprised $4150 for archaeology, $4500 for ethnography, $4300 for knowledge holder fees, $4300 for logistics plus nearly $2000 for sundries including an engagement fee and travel allowance.

The Aboriginal man said he had “complete respect” for “traditional owners” and was happy to pay, but he was furious at the Labor government which had “financially benefited” from the property sale.

“When the property was sold the government received the stamp duty, the Shire of Exmouth released the property and yet there is potentially an encumbrance on there,” he said.

“I don’t even know if we’re allowed to build on it. Let’s just say you get the survey, and it’s identified it has cultural heritage — the land could be worthless. There is an unknown that exists.”

He said properties should not be made available for sale without cultural heritage issues having already been determined.

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  • By Avi Yemini

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