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Feds called on to halt Burrup urea plant works to allow rock art assessment

Giovanni Torre -

A group of Traditional Owners have called for more Federal intervention following works approval for the Perdaman urea plant on Murujuga, in WA's Pilbara region.

Mardudhunera woman Raelene Cooper and Kurumu Mardudhunera woman Josie Alec wrote to Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek and Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney calling for a halt to works while the Commonwealth determined outstanding cultural heritage applications.

They are pushing for a 60-day moratorium on any works and appointment of a cultural heritage reporter to assess impacts of industry.

The move comes after the Morrison government issued a stop work order in March to allow ministerial consideration of a section nine application, which was rejected on the grounds Perdaman was unable to commence work within 60 days without works approval and management plans.

Last Friday, WA's Department of Water and Environmental Regulation granted final works approval for the Perdaman urea plant, leading to the renewed calls for intervention.

Yindjibarndi Elder and Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation circle of Elders member Tootsie Daniel said she was worried about Country.

"All our song lines and rock carvings, they come from Country, which is very important," she said.

"We want to protect Murujuga for our own children, our family, because our children need to learn from it, because Murujuga is like a bible.

"Perdaman should not remove cultural things, our cultural property, it's our religion and our culture."

On Wednesday Ms Plibersek confirmed an application under section nine of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act had been received.

"As this is under assessment I cannot comment further," she said.

WA Environment Minister Reece Whitby said it was a priority for the state that industry on the Burrup Peninsula co-existed with its surrounds.

"In September 2021, the Environmental Protection Authority recommended environmental approval for the Perdaman Urea Plant, subject to conditions relating to air quality and the protection of rock art," he said.

"In January 2022, Perdaman was granted ministerial approval subject to strict conditions relating to Murujuga's significant rock art.

"This included the implementation of a Cultural Heritage Management Plan prepared in consultation with MAC.

"Approvals granted by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation are works approvals allowing construction of infrastructure, and do not relate to rock art."

Mr Whitby said MAC had undertaken extensive consultation and was a strong, independent voice for Murujuga's cultural heritage.

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