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Will NSW's proposed new cultural heritage laws protect Aboriginal artefacts?

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A bill to give First Nations people in NSW a greater say in cultural and heritage protection doesn't go far enough, a parliamentary inquiry has been told.

The proposed legislation would establish an Aboriginal Cultural and Heritage Council to oversee future development in NSW.

Aboriginal Affairs NSW deputy secretary Shane Hamilton said the bill in its current form made its promise of independence from government "undeliverable".

He pointed to the powers for a government minister to appoint members of the council, with others put forward by recognised land councils and native title holders.

Native title holders have had their claims assessed by the federal government. Indigenous custodians are still applying for native title.

Mr Hamilton told a parliamentary inquiry these appointments would exclude local traditional owners, who did not belong to official bodies.

"It sets up a hierarchy that prioritises Aboriginal Land Councils over traditional owners that have better connection to country," he said on Tuesday.

"This has a potential to be a licence to destroy Aboriginal cultural heritage."

More consultation was needed as Aboriginal cultural heritage remained the last thought in development approval, he said.

Gomeroi traditional custodian Karra Kinchela said she did not feel Aboriginal artefacts were safe, with the government favouring development over culture.

She is part of a native title claim.

"Cultural heritage belongs to traditional owners and must be managed and mapped by those with connections to that particular area," Ms Kinchela said.

Andrew Abbey, a policy director at the NSW Minerals Council, said the proposed bill - a first for NSW - was long overdue but the lobby had significant concerns.

"In principle no ... there's no opposition," he said.

"From our point of view there remains a regulatory certainty question."

This includes whether the council would have projects axed over concerns and whether environmental and planning laws, which are typically used to approve mining projects, would be "subordinate" powers.

Mr Abbey couldn't promise there would be no repeat of the infamous Juukan Gorge disaster, where culturally significant caves were demolished by mining company Rio Tinto, despite pleas from local Aboriginal land groups.

However, he said mining companies were much more thorough now.

Story by Finbar O'Mallon, AAP


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