Fight over site

A ONE-MAN protest shut down a building site at Shoalhaven Heads momentarily on Tuesday when Aboriginal elder Graeme Connolly sat in front of an excavator.

Through his protest Mr Connelly aimed to draw attention to the fact that Shoalhaven City Council had not required the developer to investigate any potential Aboriginal burial sites or middens in the excavation area.

The development on the corner of Staples and McIntosh streets, between the golf club and the surf club, is for 16 holiday units, a restaurant and bar and seven blocks of land.

“I went on the site and asked to talk to the boss and was told he wasn’t here,” Mr Connelly said.

“I asked them to stop work until I could speak to someone but they wouldn’t stop. So I went and sat under the bucket of the excavator,” he said.

When the developer Tom Bishop spoke with Mr Connolly they came to an agreement and work resumed shortly after.

The site now has two Aboriginal observers overseeing the excavation work.

“We’ve got observers here now and that is how we want it to happen in the future on development work in this area,” Mr Connolly said.

“We’ve got nothing against the developer or the builders and it’s not a land claim. This is about council requiring an Aboriginal cultural heritage study before work starts, particularly in Shoalhaven Heads, which is an area of great Aboriginal significance.

“There had been remains dug up within a three-kilometre radius of this area.

“When you’re put to rest you’re supposed to stay at rest, not be dug up,” he said.

Mr Connelly, who is the chairman of the Jerrinja Local Aboriginal Land Council and Jerrinja Traditional Owners Council, said the board would set up a meeting with Shoalhaven City Council to discuss procedures relating to areas of Aboriginal significance and land development.

Shoalhaven City Council development manager Robert Russell said the site had not been subject to a study of Aboriginal heritage because there had been a previous

building on the site and the fill that was there had been brought in during the 1960s from a

sand quarry. 

“There is probably three metres of sand fill that was brought in and apart from that this site had been highly disturbed through the previous buildings that were there,” Mr Russell said.

He said there was no requirement for the developer to have observers on site because

it was highly unlikely that any Aboriginal remains would be there.

“It is unlikely the development will penetrate the original land,” he said.

“If it was part of the original dune structure we would have asked for detailed studies and Aboriginal observers, as is the normal requirement.

“We have had discussions with the prior Aboriginal Land Council on this.”

Mr Russell said council could not access National Park and Wildlife inventory on Aboriginal relics.

“Because we can’t access that information we don’t know where they are but anything close to rivers, creeks, foreshore areas and lakes we know we need to be very careful,” he said. 

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