Cultural heritage reforms major risk for Australian property owners

Federal Member for Flynn, Colin Boyce is warning that Labor’s Aboriginal heritage reforms could undermine private property rights and force property owners in Flynn to undergo expensive mandatory cultural surveys for basic activities such as mending fences or planting trees.

It comes after the Federal Government has refused to rule out that it will introduce heritage laws similar to Western Australia’s new Cultural Heritage Act – which impacts all of those who own blocks of more than 1100 square metres.

It even requires landowners to obtain cultural surveys for digging a hole more than 50 centimetres deep, or lifting more than 20 kilograms of dirt.

In WA, penalties now range from $25,000 to $1 million for individuals, and from $250,000 to $10 million for corporations, as well as jail time.

Colin Boyce said WA’s new laws were a gross overreach but could soon be seen in Flynn.

Mr Boyce said Labor’s proposed laws could also have the power to cancel or change future developments in Flynn.

“Labor’s changes could cost property owners enormous sums of money, with even cultural surveys alone in WA ranging from $120 to $160 per hour,” Mr Boyce said.

“Labor is refusing to rule out a similar model and I am deeply concerned for what this means in Flynn.”

Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said farmers and property owners in the regions had a strong record of protecting cultural sites but Labor needed to use common sense.

“There is genuine fear about what these changes mean in regional, rural and remote Australia,” Mr Littleproud said.

“Australians want to do the right thing, but Labor’s proposed laws, if modelled on WA’s, will only serve to divide us.”

Shadow Minister for the Environment, Fisheries and Forestry Senator Jonno Duniam said the changes in WA had already resulted in tree planting events being cancelled.

“The Federal Government needs to be honest with the Australian people, including by explaining whether WA’s Cultural Heritage Act will be the benchmark they use in the Federal Bill,” Senator Duniam said.

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