By TONY FOSTER*
YOU would be aware of the discussion surrounding our much-awaited Brighton bypass. In the past couple of weeks the legal manager of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre Michael Mansell has called for all work to be halted claiming the site could have the largest deposit of Aboriginal artefacts in the State.
He said reports show the area is ‘full of Aboriginal artefacts and was probably one of the most extensive in the State’. He has now suggested that the bypass be stopped and rerouted, even claiming that the existing road could be widened to accommodate the community’s need.
These archaeological claims came as a complete surprise to Council as to the best of our knowledge, all appropriate survey work was undertaken prior to the start of construction. The Department of Infrastructure Energy and Resources (DIER) engaged experts from Canberra to undertake all the necessary work to survey for Aboriginal heritage sites as well as endangered species. It is my understanding that all of this preliminary work was successfully undertaken. So it was definitely a surprise to hear that archeologists had now purportedly made this extensive find.
My disappointment is that this site has been discussed as the proposed bypass site for more than 20 years. Indeed discussions began as far back as when I was first on council in 1985. It is difficult to accept that here we are, more than 20 years down the track and we now want to change the goal posts and the Government is being asked to find a new route. It should be remembered this area has been rural land for more than 200 years, and the land has been cultivated and farmed extensively by farmers and their families throughout that time.
In recent weeks, I have spoken to many people about the issue and it is true to say that local people are absolutely dismayed about a proposed blockade of the bypass. I haven’t had one person stop me and say that they appreciate what is being said that is likely to prevent the bypass from being completed. This development has been in the planning stages for many years and to now have it stopped before it has hardly started, doesn’t make sense.
I want to reaffirm Brighton’s strong history with the Aboriginal community. They were Brighton’s first inhabitants and we are very proud of that cultural heritage and our strong cultural links. In this instance there must be a way forward so it can be a win-win for everyone.
I have already indicated that Brighton Council would support an interpretation centre where any artefacts if found, can be displayed. So I am hoping we can work together with the Aboriginal community to support this for the long term.
It is now up to the State Government to deal with the issue. Hopefully, it is not going to hold up this much-needed piece of infrastructure. We fought for years to gain the funding for this project, and I for one, do not want to see it fall over.
I am confident that the State Government can work through this to accommodate the needs of the whole community. I don’t want to see a bun fight over this important issue – common sense must prevail.
*Tony Foster is Mayor of Brighton