Yarragadee has spiritual value

27 Aug, 2003 10:00 PM

THE State Government should investigate native title rights in water before issuing further water licences in the South West, according to a recent survey.

The Aboriginal cultural study was the second report to be released by the Water and Rivers Commission.

The commission is investigating whether 45 gigalitres of water can be taken from the South West Yarragadee aquifer to boost Perth's integrated water supply system (IWSS).

The cultural report followed a social values and impact study showing strong opposition to the proposal. Ecological and economic reports would follow.

There were nine recommendations in the cultural report.

One was that ownership rights of water resources be investigated through the Future Acts clause of the Native Title Act (1993) before more water licences were granted.

Also recommended was that the Blackwood River, its tributaries, pools and waters and the Yarragadee aquifer be placed on the interim Aboriginal Sites Register as a site of mythological significance in association with Wagyl beliefs.

The report also says the Donnelly River and Scott River and their tributaries should be placed on the register.

During community consultation the Blackwood River was reported as a site associated with the mythical Wagyl, which lived in the waters of the river and its tributaries, according to Aboriginal folklore.

As the Yarragadee aquifer recharged the Blackwood River near Darradup the, Aboriginal people consulted considered that the aquifer was of the same spiritual energy as the Blackwood River.

There were also concerns about what effect the extraction of water from the Yarragadee would have on marroning and fishing as well as any impact on flora and fauna.

Other concerns related to possible environmental damage such as the exposure of acid sulfate soils and ground slumping.

The $8 million WRC investigation was due to be completed by October while the project, if approved, would cost $295m to set up.

A spokeswoman said though Native Title applied to land and water it did not usually cancel established uses and existing licences, particularly in populated areas.

The Yorta Yorta Native Title claim on parts of the Murray River in Northern Victoria failed last year because claimants could not establish a traditional connection with the river.

In July, the South West Land and Sea Council and 105 WA local governments signed a Native Title memorandum of understanding for the South West, aimed at speeding up the process.


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