After Environment Minister Stephen Dawson partially allowed an appeal on a stop work order on Yakka Munga Station, Nyikina Mangala Traditional Owners have gathered in Derby to discuss further action.
The Traditional Owners said in a statement they are “disappointed” Minister Dawson has “appeared to condone up to five hectares of the clearing.”
“The clearing was in complete disregard of the Indigenous Land Use Agreement in place and was a clear breach of the terms of the pastoral lease,” the statement read.
“We want the soil put back and the trees that were bulldozed replaced. No one is above the law and appropriate penalties must apply.”
In their appeal Zenith also cited animal welfare laws as one of the reasons their clearing should be exempt, and a retrospective permit granted.
During one of their first visits to the cleared area in June, Traditional Owners attempted to save a calf that appeared to have been stuck in the mud due to recent clearing in the area.
Traditional Owners were unable to save it and the calf subsequently died.
Traditional Owner Wayne Bergmann said culturally and environmentally significant areas have already been destroyed as a result of the unlawful clearing by Zenith Australia, branch of Chinese-owned company Shanghai CRED.
“We remain very concerned about the intentions of this company, and what the clearing of this land will allow the company to do,” Mr Bergmann said.
Nyikina Mangala Traditional owners are currently seeking legal advice on whether Zenith Australia is able to seek retrospective approval of the clearing.
Traditional Owner Rosita Shaw said anthropological and archaeological assessments should be taken to document the area before any other work occurs.
“This country is like a library for us – filled with the stories and knowledge of our Elders and we will not allow any more of it to be destroyed,” Ms Shaw said.
“The Nyikina Mangala people will continue to oppose any further work until we are assured that the cultural and environmental values of our country are protected.”
Environmental not-for-profit organisation Environs Kimberley has also been outspoken in questioning the WA Government’s commitment to protecting the Kimberley.
The organisation has called on Minister Dawson to prosecute Zenith Australia for the unlawful clearing and to force the company to rehabilitate the land.
“We are seriously concerned that Minister Dawson will allow this illegal clearing to go unpunished,” said Environs Kimberley Director Martin Pritchard.
“It would be an absolute travesty if this company gets away with illegal land clearing by simply applying for a retrospective permit … it would be a green light to every other pastoralist in the State to bulldoze first then ask for a permit later.”
Environment Minister Stephen Dawson was contacted for comment however did not respond by time of publication.
By Hannah Cross