The WA Pastoral Lands Board has issued a default notice to Zenith Australia requiring the rehabilitation of the illegally cleared area on Yakka Munga Station.
In a statement the Board said the WA Government’s immediate priorities are ensuring a safe site, containing the risk of soil erosion and ensuring the site is remediated before the wet season begins.
Along with rehabilitating the land by November 30, Zenith Australia must submit a development plan to the Board detailing how Yakka Munga will be managed in future.
After protests in June by Nyikina Traditional Owners saw a stop work order issued to the Chinese-owned company, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation opened an investigation into the illegal clearing.
This investigation is ongoing, with the stop work order remaining in force.
The Deputy Commissioner of Soil and Land Conservation has now ordered Zenith Australia to undertake work to remediate the site, including:
- Removing livestock from the area to decrease soil disturbance
- Putting on roll-over banks to divert water run-off
- Refilling two excavated channels with the soil removed from that area.
Although Nyikina Traditional Owners are happy with the result, there are questions arising as to how the process of rehabilitation will be undertaken.
Traditional Owner Rosita Shaw said before rehabilitation can begin, there needs to be an Aboriginal heritage report, with consultation from Traditional Owners.
“There needs to be an environmental heritage survey with Traditional Owners,” Ms Shaw said.
“We don’t know how they’re going to put the land back … we need to monitor what they’re doing.”
Ms Shaw said cultural monitors need to be present when the land is being rehabilitated, much like the work Nyikina Traditional Owners already do with mining companies who want to clear land.
Ms Shaw also said Traditional Owners still haven’t been consulted in this process and that she found out about the WA Pastoral Lands Board decision via conservation organisation Environs Kimberley.
“I got a call from [Director] Martin Pritchard … they were one of our biggest supporters as well,” Ms Shaw said.
Ms Shaw said the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 should be revised and bolstered.
“This further highlights that [the Act] needs to be strengthened … needs to protect Aboriginal culture, land heritage culture across Kimberley and all over Western Australia,” Ms Shaw said.
“This area was once populated with our ancestors, and spiritual beings still live and speak Nyikina, these spirits look after country.”
Ms Shaw remains adamant that Nyikina country must continue to be protected and is grateful for the support from Environs Kimberley, the Wilderness Society and Kimberley Land Council.
“We happy with what happened … [but] the company [Zenith Australia] still needs to consult with us and talk with us.”
By Hannah Cross