By Jim Green
The federal government is proceeding with its plan to build a nuclear waste dump in South Australia, even though negotiations with traditional owners over heritage conservation remain unresolved.
On April 30, the government issued a section 9 notice under the 1989 Land Acquisition Act, which gives it legal powers to conduct work on land that it may acquire for the dump. The intention is to conduct test drilling on 18 sites in the Billa Kalina region of central and northern SA.
Fifteen of the sites have areas of heritage significance. Aboriginal groups do not have the legal power to veto test drilling or the establishment of a dump.
According to Parry Agius, manager of the native title unit of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement, which represents the Antakirinja, Barngarla and Kokatha people in the negotiations, "The nuclear waste repository issue highlights the inadequacy of native title rights as they are currently constituted under the Native Title Act ... While native title purports to recognise Aboriginal peoples' particular relationship to the land, and the negotiations we are undertaking are aimed at protecting Aboriginal heritage, the commonwealth government may extinguish these rights by compulsory acquisition."
David Noonan from the Australian Conservation Foundation said the federal government intends to proceed with the evaluation works from May 7.
Having agreed to meet local graziers on April 23, government bureaucrats cancelled the meeting at short notice, saying they were too busy to attend. "Now we now know why — they had already decided to ignore local concerns and proceeded to issue a section 9 notice", Noonan said.
The government's urgency relates to the plan to build a new reactor in the Sydney suburb of Lucas Heights, a plan which is heavily dependent on moving the stockpile of waste off site. Removing the waste has become more urgent since the federal science minister's approval for a new reactor on May 3.
ANSTO, the Lucas Heights nuclear agency, has acknowledged that the "major fraction" of the waste destined for the Billa Kalina dump will be from Lucas Heights.