State Govt to put evidence behind industry impact on Burrup rock art

Tom ZaunmayrPilbara News
Petroglyphs near Yara's TAN plant on the Burrup Peninsula.
Camera IconPetroglyphs near Yara's TAN plant on the Burrup Peninsula. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

Decades of bickering over the impact of heavy industry on Australia’s biggest rock art gallery could be put to bed, with the State Government set to turn up the focus on air pollution on the Burrup Peninsula.

The Burrup Peninsula—or Murujuga—is home to more than one million petroglyphs between 200 and 50,000 years old, as well as some of the state’s biggest resources projects including Rio Tinto ports, Woodside’s Pluto and Karratha Gas Plants, and Yara’s fertiliser and explosives plants.

Under the Murujuga Rock Art Strategy released today, The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation and Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation will oversee implementation and analysis of air quality monitoring to determine whether rock art on the peninsula is degrading at an accelerated rate.

The accuracy of findings from previous studies have been contested, eroding the public’s confidence in emissions monitoring on the peninsula.

VideoBurrup Peninsula is home to one of the largest ancient Aboriginal rock art collections in the world. The stories on the rocks depict the beginning of time: when the world was soft.

Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the new strategy was a “scientifically rigorous” approach to managing rock art.

“The Murujuga petroglyphs are a vital part of Western Australia's cultural heritage and are of immense cultural and spiritual significance to the traditional owners,” he said.

“DWER will work in partnership with the MAC to oversee a world best practice scientific monitoring and analysis program that will determine whether the rock art is being subjected to accelerated change.”

The news comes as the State Government presses ahead with a World Heritage bid while simultaneously working to attract a $4.4bn urea and $1bn methanol plant to Murujuga.

Traditional owners have long raised concerns industrial air pollution was damaging Murujuga’s rock art, and want to see new industry established down the road at Maitland Industrial Estate instead.

MAC chief executive Peter Jeffries said protecting the rock art was essential to Murujuga’s World Heritage listing.

“The rock art is an integral part of our culture—it tells our history and our stories and we want to make sure that everything possible is done to protect it for future generations,” he said.

“The preservation and protection of these ancient images is a focus for the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation.

“We see the involvement of our rangers in the monitoring of the condition of the rock art as a very important training opportunity for them to learn how to gather information, use monitoring equipment and input data.”

The State Government hopes to award a contract for the monitoring program by mid-year.

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails