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Perth Airport to pave over Aboriginal site

The expansion of Perth Airport will destroy part of an Aboriginal heritage site but the company says traditional owners have been consulted.

The airport plans to build a new runway that will consume about 10 per cent of Munday Swamp, which the South West Land and Sea Council says has great significance to Noongar people, with customary and cultural activities still taking place.

Perth Airport says it has minimised the impact of the project, including moving the runway as far south as possible and realigning taxiways around the swamp.

“When the new runway was first proposed in the 1970s and 1980s, it would have destroyed the entire Munday Swamp region,” the company said on Friday.

“Under the current plans, around 90 per cent of the swamp area will be retained, including the most significant water body, and we will be working hard to minimise this impact as we undergo final designs.”

The airport secured approval in 2018 after lodging a Section 18 notice, which seeks the minister’s consent where impact from a development is considered unavoidable.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt told parliament at the time Perth Airport had done everything in its engineering capacity to minimise the impact of the proposed runway.

“There will still be an impact on the site, although the vast majority of the location and its most luxuriant wetland area will not be affected,” he said.

But SWALSC said it was deeply disappointed as the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee had recommended against granting the approval.

The council now reportedly wants it overturned, in light of Premier Mark McGowan recently saying the state government was working with miners and Aboriginal groups to make sure the destruction of sites like ancient rock shelters at Juukan Gorge did not happen again.

Rio Tinto’s blowing up of two 46,000-year-old caves in the Pilbara area was legal as the miner also had Section 18 consent, but it sparked international outrage, prompting an apology from the company for causing distress to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people.

Mr Wyatt said on Friday such a consent could not be reviewed or revoked.

“The McGowan government is progressing new cultural heritage legislation to better protect Aboriginal heritage in Western Australia,” he said.

“The Section 18 process under the current legislation will not exist in the proposed new legislation.”

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