Kumarangk Coalition fights bridge construction

June 8, 1994

Kumarangk Coalition fights bridge construction

By Stephen Baker

ADELAIDE — The decision to construct a bridge from the mainland to a small island near the mouth of the Murray River has been strongly opposed by local residents, Aboriginal groups, environmentalists, activists and unions.

Construction of the Hindmarsh Island bridge at the small rural town of Goolwa would desecrate significant Aboriginal cultural sites and endanger the world-recognised natural heritage values of the region.

The Ngarrindjeri are the local Aboriginal people, and their name for the island is Kumarangk. This is the Ngarrindjeri word for woman and indicates the reverence the people have for the island which used to be a most important meeting place.

The islands and wetlands at the Murray mouth have been recognised as having significant natural heritage values. They are part of the Coorong region, which has been listed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as a waterfowl habitat. The proposed developments threaten the ecological processes these waterbirds depend on.

When the Liberals were in opposition they opposed the bridge. As the new state government, they have endorsed its construction. The Liberals claim that contractual obligations leave them legally and economically responsible if they do not build the bridge.

On May 3, Dr Michael Armitage, the state minister for Aboriginal affairs, gave permission for the minister of transport (his sister-in-law), Diana Laidlaw, to desecrate sacred Aboriginal sites, removing the last state-based legal stumbling block to construction.

The community appealed to Robert Tickner, the federal minister for Aboriginal affairs, who on May 12 declared a 30-day moratorium on construction. But this could prove to be only a delay. The campaign needs to be maintained.

To facilitate the anti-bridge campaign, the Kumarangk Coalition has been formed. The coalition will coordinate distribution of information to the public and media groups.

Kumarangk Coalition can be contacted at the Centre of Urban Ecology, 85 Halifax Street, Adelaide. The postal address is GPO Box 3040, Adelaide 5001. Or phone (08) 223 1510.

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