In the wake of updated Aboriginal cultural heritage laws taking effect on July 1, conflicts have arisen between the South East Regional Centre for Urban Landcare and an indigenous group over the Canning River's restoration.
The group had organised a tree planting initiative, which involved 120 volunteers planting 5000 seedlings in Canning and Gosnells' southeastern suburbs.
However, the event was called off after claims by the peak environmental body that approvals were being withheld pending the compensation.
The indigenous corporation involved, which remains unnamed, allegedly requested $2.5 million from the federal government's $10 million commitment towards restoring the Canning waterways.
The demand has triggered heated debates and criticism from politicians, including Shadow Defence Minister Andrew Hastie and Opposition Leader Shane Love.
Both have expressed strong opposition to the recently implemented Aboriginal cultural heritage laws and vowed to overturn the legislation if their parties win the next WA election.
The contentious issue stems from the lack of appointed indigenous representatives empowered to approve or deny plans and projects, including tree planting initiatives. While the government is yet to appoint these representatives, the situation remains unresolved.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tony Buti refuted claims that the conflict was linked to the newly modernised laws, arguing that it was solely about the compensation request.
However, the controversy has resulted in the cancellation of multiple tree planting events, impacting environmental initiatives and community engagement.
The Canning River is a site of significant Aboriginal cultural heritage in the Perth region, and its restoration holds 'immense importance' for preserving indigenous heritage and protecting the environment.