Australia's "weak" Aboriginal heritage protection laws are being reconsidered, after Wagga Solar Farm was fined only $1500 for breaching its Aboriginal Heritage Permit, resulting in the destruction of ancient stone tools.
The company says an administrative error caused them to start work on their Bomen site without notifying Heritage NSW first, leading to the destruction of Wiradjuri artefacts.
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A subsequent Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment investigation found Aboriginal artefacts had been harmed as a result.
Aboriginal affairs minister Don Harwin said the $1500 fine was within the rules set out in the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, but that the government would be re-examining those rules.
"I am advised that the [DPIE], as the lead for Aboriginal cultural heritage compliance and enforcement actions, investigated the matter at Wagga Wagga Solar Farm and considered the case in accordance with the DPIE Prosecution Guidelines," Mr Harwin said.
"The New South Wales Government is undertaking a programme of legislative reform which includes working with the peak Aboriginal Stakeholder groups on a review of the regulatory and compliance processes for the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage in New South Wales."
Wiradjuri man Mark Saddler said the government's Aboriginal heritage protection laws were still woefully inadequate, despite years of policy reform promises.
"For 250 years we've had the destruction of Wiradjuri cultural places and items and enough is enough. If it hasn't come in 250 years, when's it going to come?" Mr Saddler said.
"Don Harwin is the minister of Aboriginal Affairs. He should be the protector of Aboriginal places, items, and song lines, but as far as I'm concerned he is not."
Mr Saddler was one of the Registered Aboriginal Parties who was consulted by Wagga Solar Farm prior to the development.
NSW shadow minister for Aboriginal affairs David Harris said the policy reform had been continually knocked back by the government, despite ongoing talks about an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill.
"The issue of Aboriginal Heritage in NSW has been left since 2018 when the government abandoned its draft Legislation," Mr Harris said.
"We cannot delay because every day in this state decisions are being made which impact on Aboriginal heritage. The government needs to come back to the table with a solution."