A framework for the future management of the National Heritage area of the Burrup Peninsula, Dampier Archipelago


Friends of Australian Rock Art

February 2011


o Friends of Australian Rock Art (FARA) is a voluntary organisation that facilitates the preservation,protection and promotion of Australian rock art, particularly that of the Burrup Peninsula and Dampier Archipelago.The area contains the world's longest sequence and largest concentration of petroglyphs. It contains unique archaeological, ecological and spiritual sites in an area inhabited by Aboriginal people for at least 30,000 years. The site has, amongst many elaborate depictions, the world's oldest known representation of the human face.

o Industry commenced on the peninsula in 1964, when Hamersley Iron established its port and administrative centre at Parker Point on the southern side of King Bay. In 1982, Woodside Energy constructed a natural gas production facility between King Bay and Withnell Bay. Further industrialisation has continued on the peninsula with expansion of the Woodside plant, construction of a new liquefied natural gas facility, establishment of Burrup Fertilisers, recent applications for two ammonium nitrate production plants and a water desalination facility.

o Industrialisation of the area has resulted in the destruction and removal of a significant number of petroglyphs, with increasing vandalism and theft of artefacts resulting from the increased population in the area.

o In January 2003, the Burrup Maitland Industrial Estates Agreement (BMIEA) was signed between the state government and local indigenous groups with the intent of establishing a conservation area to protect the indigenous heritage and to allocate more land for future industrial use. Substantial areas of the Burrup containing significant rock art and indigenous heritage sites were designated for industrial use (Area A-Conzinc South; Area B, Withnell East; Area C, Burrup West; Area D, King Bay-Hearson Cove; Area E, Industrial South).

o The BMIEA included development of a Management Plan for the joint operation of the conservation area by the state government and the traditional custodians. A preliminary Management Plan was drafted in 2006 by the Department of Environment and Conservation. Although this plan was a thorough document, it was never agreed to by stakeholders and was not enacted. A major issue was that existing legislation prevented the proposed joint management arrangements.

a Several people, including members of FARA, submitted comments on the proposed Management Plan. The major issues raised were:

b The proposed Plan was for 10 years only when preservation of the rock art should be for ongoing generations.

c It contained a number of important factual errors.

d The proposed building of a sealed road to Conzinc Bay with a Visitors Centre at that location would result in the destruction of a large quantity of rock art and open the more remote areas of the peninsula to the public with increased risks for theft, vandalism and graffiti. A new road deep into the conservation area would also increase the risk to fauna and spread of weeds.

e The proposed unsupervised walking and camping areas were potentially extremely hazardous because of the lack of surface drinking water and the difficult terrain with a high chance for strained or broken limbs. This potentially created a substantial risk for litigation.

f The need for further scientific study and documentation of petroglyphs and other artefacts was supported.

g The difficulty in restricting access to areas without the erection of fencing was agreed, but this would be impractical because wildlife does not recognise land use boundaries.

o In July 2007, the federal government placed a significant portion of the Dampier Archipelago, including the BMIEA industrial sites A and B, on the National Heritage List. Thus, all of the area from the current industrial site to Conzinc Bay was included as National Heritage.

o The Conservation Legislation Amendment Bill, 2010 was introduced into the Western Australian parliament in 2010 and is expected to be passed early in 2011. This Bill will allow the joint management of conservation areas within the state by the state government and indigenous groups. Its passage will remove the former restrictions on enactment of BMIEA Management Plan for the Burrup Peninsula.

o FARA wishes to take this opportunity following passage of the Bill to assist with the review and acceptance of a Management Plan for the Burrup Peninsula by those entitled to enact the plan under the BMIEA agreement.

A suggested framework for the future

The major components FARA believes should be in a future plan to manage the Burrup Peninsula are as follows:

o The Plan should cover the entire area listed under the National Heritage gazetted land of 3 July 2007, and include the BMIEA industrial area A (Conzinc South) and area B (Withnell East), but not those apportions of the industrial land allocated to Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd and Dampier Salt Limited that lie within the boundaries. (See the Figure below; the green coloured areas with red dots are the Hamersley Iron and Dampier Salt zones within the National Heritage area).

o The Plan should ensure ongoing management of designated areas, but with provisions for revision if needed in the future. Perpetual management for generations into the future is required.

o The Plan should regulate access and control activities within the northern third of the Burrup Peninsula. This would include restricting 4WD access to the area by replacing the current open gate on the road between Withnell Bay and Conzinc Bay with a secure, locked or electronically controlled gate.

o Access through the gate should be allowed only to permit holders for legitimate purposes. These purposes could include cultural, maintenance, scientific or other approved activities. Permits would be provided by rangers located at the proposed Interpretative Centre.

a The Plan could provide for and upgrade facilities for the local community to enjoy the coastal environment of the Burrup Peninsula:

b Public areas should be confined to Withnell Bay and Hearson Cove.

c The road to the current boat launching site at Withnell Bay and to Hearson Cove beach should be sealed to reduce dust penetration onto petroglyphs.

d The launching ramp for medium sized boats at Withnell Bay could be upgraded.

e The speed of traffic on the Burrup should be restricted to 50 kpm, with erection of signs and appropriate traffic calming devices.

f Construct an Educational/Interpretative Centre in the vicinity of Deep Gorge.

g The Centre must be of world class for a rock art interpretative centre.

h Provide a research base, with work space and library.

i Include, if culturally appropriate and with appropriate interpretive information, some of the rock art specimens removed from the Woodside site and currently held in the enclosure.

j Have the Centre appropriately staffed with permanent and assistant rangers

k Make the small outcrops of rocks near Deep Gorge accessible for wheelchairs.

l Have rangers conduct regular supervised walks through areas of Deep Gorge to explain the rock art and its significance.

o Unsupervised walking on the Heritage listed area should be discouraged, but ranger guided tours are needed.

o There is no need to restrict boating to beaches in the area. However, FARA is keen to facilitate education of local people, including industry workers, about the uniqueness and significance of the area.

o FARA believes that fencing the area is inappropriate for visual, cultural and fauna access reasons, and that education of the community is the best long-term method for protecting the rock art and heritage value of the area.

o The Plan could consider including accommodation for higher end visitors (scientists, academic, special-interest visitors) at or near the Interpretative Centre.

o FARA believes that some parts of the background discussion in the 2006 Management Plan is still relevant, but requires careful editing to bring it up to date.



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