Traditional owners have launched legal action in the Federal Court to try to block federal government plans for a nuclear waste dump in South Australia.
The Barngarla Determination Aboriginal Corporation says if successful its action will overturn the decision to locate the dump at Napandee, near Kimba, by quashing the declaration of Resources Minister Keith Pitt.
“Barngarla have never been respected or engaged by this government at all in this process,” chairman Jason Bilney said in a statement on Tuesday.
“After successfully winning native title after 21 years of fighting for our country, we were then excluded from the community ballot (on the dump proposal).
“The government has continued to treat us unfairly, including not undertaking heritage assessments with us and abandoning the commitment to broad community support at the last minute.
“We will continue to fight to protect and preserve our country, like we have always done, and make sure that the government’s failures are brought to light in the court.”
In November, the Commonwealth announced it had acquired 211 hectares at Napandee, 24km west of Kimba on the Eyre Peninsula, with its plans subject to heritage, design and technical studies.
The site will be used to store nuclear medical waste currently spread across more than 100 facilities including universities and hospital basements.
Mr Pitt said the vast majority of nuclear waste produced in Australia was associated with the production of nuclear medicine.
“Nuclear medicine is used in the diagnosis of a variety of heart, lung and muscular-skeletal conditions as well as the treatment of specific cancers, and a by-product of its production is low-level radioactive waste,” he said.
In conjunction with the legal action, opponents to the dump rallied on the steps of parliament house in Adelaide on Tuesday.
Conservation SA boss Craig Wilkins said it was unacceptable that the clear opposition of the Barngarla community had not been respected.
“This is a plan for Australia’s first dedicated national dump and store, and some of the radioactive waste it would handle is a hazard to people and the environment for up to 10,000 years,” he said.
“To directly disenfranchise Aboriginal traditional owners and also deny the wider South Australia community a say in such a significant project is simply unacceptable.”
Mr Wilkins said Conservation SA supported responsible management of radioactive waste but believed the Kimba plan was “deeply flawed and unnecessarily divisive”.