The Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA)has called on the State Government to make changes to the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act in the name of aiding responsible development in the state’s undersupplied housing market.
The Act, which came into effect on July 1, applies to residential and rural property owners on 1100sq m of land or more, meaning that if they plan to develop the property they need to check whether what they plan to do is exempt, so that they do not affect Aboriginal cultural heritage.
If Aboriginal culture heritage would be affected, property owners may be required to adjust their plans to minimise the risk of harm, get a permit or a management plan.
REIWA Chief Executive Officer Cath Hart said there had been a lot of confusion and concern about implementing the Act.
“REIWA supports the aims of safeguarding Aboriginal Cultural Heritage however we’re concerned that the current regulations may have unintended consequences for residential property transactions and development, particularly in regional and peri-urban areas such as the Swan Valley, Darling Range, western suburbs, and the Peel and South-West regions,” Ms Hart said.
“We were however pleased to see the Premier’s recent comments that the government ‘can make changes where those laws need to change’, and we have been engaging with government to propose practical changes to ensure a workable outcome.
“We’d like to see the current exemptions expanded, with a specific focus on residential land uses, because the current 1,100sq m threshold doesn’t reflect the diversity of residential properties in Western Australia, where many residential properties above the threshold are of relatively modest size.
“As such, we are supportive of options that include either exempting residential land altogether or increasing the 1,100sqm threshold to strike an appropriate balance between protecting Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and facilitating responsible development in WA’s undersupplied housing market.”
When implementing the Act, Western Australia Premier Roger Cook said it would prevent another incident like Juukan Gorge, where an explosion on the traditional lands of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people destroyed the rock shelters of Juukan Gorge, a sacred site that had been continuously occupied for 46,000 years.
“The current Legislation is outdated and it wasn’t good for Aboriginal people or land users. It led to incidents like Juukan Gorge, which was a global embarrassment for Australia,” Mr Cook said.
“We have consulted extensively with Aboriginal people and industry to find a balance that allows Aboriginal people to speak for their country and ensures that many activities continue with minimal disruption or additional burden.’