Shadow Lands Minister Neil Thomson has backed calls for a pause on the implementation of new Aboriginal Cultural Heritage laws amid fears they will create a red tape backlog with potentially major consequences for the Western Australian economy.
Mr Thomson has lodged a petition on behalf of the Pastoral and Graziers Association calling for a pause on the implementation of the Act by at least six months to allow for the proper processes to be set up.
Under the changes that are due to be enacted on July 1, every Western Australian with land of more than 1,100m2 will be impacted requiring a permit for activities on their land such as clearing trees, building a fence line, digging a footing or digging a farm dam.
“This represents a massive imposition of red tape on the community,” Mr Thomson.
“Further, due to a lack of processes put in place, the permit system won’t even go live until the day the laws come into effect.
“It means anyone needing a permit for their activities won’t be able to lodge an application until the day the laws take effect, meaning they will have to cease all works until they receive approval.
“Never before in the history of Western Australia has so little thought been put in place for a new regulatory framework.
“The State has failed to properly deliver on its complex and bureaucratic cultural heritage laws, despite these concerns being raised in 2021 when the Bill was rushed through Parliament within a few days under the so called ‘Urgent Bill’ provisions, which gagged proper debate.”
Mr Thomson said the implications of the changes were far-reaching and wouldn’t just affect pastoralists,
graziers and miners with many metropolitan landowners also affected and many unaware of the changes
about to be enacted.
“Those lodging a development application after 1 July will most likely also need to demonstrate to local and planning authorities that they have Aboriginal Cultural Heritage approval on metropolitan lots over 1,100m2.
“These development and building applications won’t be able to be provided until the heritage permits have been processed, providing a further bottleneck in the building sector.”
Mr Thomson said assurances were given in December 2021, by the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Hon Steven Dawson MLC, that the detail on implementation would be addressed through the ‘co-design’ process for the regulations but that has clearly failed.
“Worse still, the Department of Planning Lands and Heritage is yet to publish Guidance Notes on how the laws will be applied to different community sectors and there appears to be few rules governing how those permits will be issued and little accountability on the process,” Mr Thomson said.
“Failure to comply with the laws could result in hefty fines or imprisonment.
“It’s clear the WA Labor Government is trying to rush these changes through without proper process and I’ll be lodging an e-petition sponsored by the President of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association to ask the Premier to pause the implementation of the laws for at least six months until systems are in place and
proper advice is provided to the community.”
To sign the petition, go to the Parliamentary website at: LC e-Petitions (parliament.wa.gov.au)