THE CASE AGAINST A DAM
Aboriginal Cultural Heritage
The Byrrill Creek area was populated by people of the Ngdonowal dialect of the Bundjalung and Yugambeh language chains. Converge Pty Ltd was engaged by NSW Department of Commerce in 2009 to conduct a PAO of the area associated with the Byrrill Creek Dam, including a 3-day field survey with Aboriginal participants (George Scott, Garth Lena, Jackie McDonald and Harry Boyd).
A total of 26 registered sites are on the Bundjalung Mapping Project (BMP), which confirm traditional Aboriginal occupation in proximity to the project area. These sites include open camp fires, artefact scatters, scarred trees and grinding hollows. Grinding hollows are highly significant, as they confirm cultural practices such as food and pigment processing. These sites would be inundated by the Byrrill Creek Dam. A further four new sites were identified during the 2009 PAO; all of which will also be inundated with the proposed dam. The Aboriginal participants of the survey confirmed that pathways, which follow the ridgelines would be cut by the dam. The connectivity of ancient pathways “provides a deeper cultural meaning” and interruption of these was unacceptable to the Aboriginal participants. All Aboriginal participants regarded the area as highly significant, and that: “…..the situation which resulted in a loss of sites during construction of the Clarrie Hall Dam should be avoided at all costs.” and; “It would be important that the water resource remain in the Tweed and not be supplied to other areas.” In the event that this option proceeds, then similar provisions would apply, which were made in relation to the 2008 PAO for the proposed raising of Clarrie Hall Dams, and would include:
• O n -going consultation;
• Site avoidance of identified areas of cultural significance;
• The presence of qualified Aboriginal monitors;
• Observance of the legislative procedures under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, and in particular, Section 90. In summary, it is considered that the issues associated with Aboriginal cultural heritage are significant for both of the dams proposals. The members of the Aboriginal community that attended a meeting in March 2010, convened by Council to discuss the water supply augmentation options, were hesitant to support any proposal that would be interpreted as an approval to destroy Aboriginal cultural heritage sites and places. However, the members of the Aboriginal community were prepared to work with Council to determine a preferred option.