Western Highway, Tree destruction without integrity.

We are living on a planet that is telling us we are making it unwell. We know that by consuming greater and greater amounts of energy each day we are pouring more carbon into our atmosphere which is acting as a radiation absorb-er and a blanket that is making our environment hotter. Our ice caps are melting, the rainfall patterns are changing, the ocean currents are reacting, the development of micro organisms that can kill us are growing at an ever increasing rate. Our addiction to consumption has become our nemesis and as with any true addict we suffer from our greatest affliction, denial. As with any true addict we attack those who speak the truth and are concerned so as we can continue with our mindless pursuit. In this case it is the pursuit of money and power which ignores common sense, compassion, the ability to feel and to use the most valuable gift in our lives, our intellect. Any person looking at the Proposed Road Project on the Western Highway will see it is a high energy project. It will consume billions of tons of concrete, steel and ash-felt, all high energy materials and will facilitate a high energy carbon producing system, Trains use less energy than trucks and we could travel together instead of everybody sitting one person per one car? We do not stop there we continue perpetuating the sickness by removing the large old trees from the environment. The very creatures that are the foundation of the ecology of the land, they hold the moisture in the soil, they provide homes for the wildlife and shade for the small plants and yet they are known as “Fucking Bastards” not “Precious Creatures” by those people who build the dinosaurs (the roads) that have been used to invaded our land since the Romans arrived. The people who have created this insane place are not people of science, they are people of words, words that give them power, they are the lawyers. They make and create the laws we have to abide by, they administer those laws and they interpret those laws to ensure that when required they can be manipulated, subverted and if necessary ignored. THE TRUTH IS THAT SOME PEOPLE ARE MORE EQUAL IN THE EYES OF THE LAW THAN OTHERS AND LARGE OLD TREES THEY DO NOT EVEN COUNT.

After writing to Sussan Ley and copying to her political compatriots on two occasions, with regards to how a decision to build a highway through a sacred part of the land is an act of sacrilege I received a reply from Jacinta Allan. Please see below.

Jacinta Allan`s Reply

Letter from Jacinta Allan Minister for Transport Infrastructure.
Letter from Jacinta Allan Minister for Transport Infrastructure.

I read this letter a number of times and felt compelled to write a response in order to counter the deception it contains which has been fed to the Victorian public as a project that will make people safe through a decision making process carried out with integrity.

Reply to Jacinta`s letter addressed to Sussan Ley.

To The Hon Sussan Ley                                       07 10  2019

Minister for the Environment.   (Ref MS 19-000478  16 July 2019.) Parliament House                (Ref JA19-2535 23 09 2019. )
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Sussan

As yet I have not received a reply to my two letters, sent 16/07/2019 and 15/08/2019, but I have received correspondence from Jacinta Allan, the Minister of Transport for the Victorian Government. Since the roads upgrade project on The Western Highway is a partnership between the Victorian and Federal Governments, I am responding to this correspondence directly to my original recipient.

My response deals with three separate areas.

  1. The statements provided regarding road safety that justify the project in the eyes of Major Road Projects Victoria (MRPV), the Federal Government, and the Victorian Government.
  2. The consultation and consultative process:

a)  The decision making process which has decided not to consider a suggested alternative    route using an existing power-line easement and contains a fundamental flaw in relation to the relevance of Large Old Trees and their significance pertaining to long term ecological stability.     b) With the community, organisations representing traditional native title holders.                                               

  • The relevance of the area with regards to its cultural and historical significance for the original peoples of Australia, which if disrespected will perpetuate the atrocities inflicted upon these people during the past 230 years. For the Victorian Government to believe they can have a Treaty process with integrity whilst simultaneously behaving like a bunch of unaccountable intellectual thugs makes one question the sanity of our current government. The credibility of the treaty process is essential and if not done right will also allow all Australian families to be abused and made vulnerable to an existing violent culture of governance that has a long and bloody history that lacks integrity and does not respect family or community.
  1. Road Safety:

Refer paragraph one and two.

“Both levels of government have been working with the local community and Traditional Owner groups to deliver urgently needed safety upgrades. It is vital for the safety of the community that this upgrade is completed. There have been more than 100 crashes on the Western Highway between Ballarat and Stawell in recent years, including 11 deaths and more than 50 serious injuries.”

I assume that from these statements, the underlying basis for the project from the perspective of both governments is road safety.

The above statement refers to the section of the Western Highway between Ballarat and Stawell and does not specify the number of years over which these statistics apply. The road upgrade in question which impacts upon a sacred aboriginal cultural area which contains sacred birthing, funeral and scar trees is a 24 km section running east from Ararat towards Beaufort.

The section of the road that impacts upon the no go area between Buangor and Ararat has had 12 road accidents during the past five years and zero fatal accidents. Refer Appendix 1.      

The response provided makes the assumption that the building of a four lane freeway at a stupendous cost to the tax payer will be the ultimate panacea when it comes to road safety. It appears to ignore MRPV`s consultant’s statistics which states that the building of a freeway will reduce the accident rate by about 40%. Refer: Appendix 2 

The statement: “It is vital for the safety of the community that this upgrade is completed.” Considering the fact that even after the roadworks are completed and the accident rate is reduced by hopefully 40% driving on the road will remain an unsafe practice, which makes this statement an untruth and yet it is the primary reason given in the correspondence for upgrading the road.

  • The consultation and consultative process:

“A rigorous planning process, including a full independent Environmental Effects Statement process, has been concluded that ensures the project delivers the best possible outcomes for the community, whilst respecting environment and cultural heritage.”

I assume from reading this statement that the rigorous planning process for the project has been carried out with integrity, supported by an Independent Effects Statement, a statement that assures the community that cultural heritage and the environment will be respected.

I will draw your attention to the following report, which I recommend you read and I have attached. The report is an investigation into LOT`S which means Large Old Trees, not as one can infer inanimate things for sale, no LOT`S mean Large Old Trees. Now ponder that thought for a while; Large Old Trees. Refer: Appendix 3

The fact that during the rigorous planning process, including a full independent Environmental Effects Statement process did not prevent the removal of 1129 old trees indicates a fundamental flaw within the whole process.

The report reveals the fact that Large Old Trees were considered to be part of the evaluation process but there is a significant flaw within the Environmental Effects Statement process as they are not a major determining factor in responses to clearing proposals.

The failure to incorporate the removal of Large Old Trees as a major determining factor ignores the ecological impact of the project and ignores the heritage aspects of those trees and their spiritual significance to the land.  

This failure to regard Large Old Trees with the reverence required belittles any input of wisdom by the traditional owners of the land.  The wisdom and the spiritual significance attached to these trees are very much in keeping with a 50,000 year old culture that knows and understands how to care for the natural land scape.  The fact that these Large Old Trees have survived the waves of European settlement in this area can be traced back to the knowledge passed onto the new arrivals by the traditional inhabitants, as it would have been explained to the Europeans the spiritual and ecological importance of keeping these trees intact, not only for the purpose of shading the sheep, but also providing a home for all of the beautiful creatures that inhabit the land, the birds, the marsupials, the reptiles and the insects.

There is a track of land with a power line easement which has already been cleared called the Northern Option which has been ignored. The letter I have received appears to contain false and misleading information and states the alternative option will require the removal of 5,000 additional trees and 300 very large old trees. A former VicRoads senior adviser has slammed the roads agency for overlooking an alternative; cheaper route for the Western Highway duplication that would have saved more trees. I refer you to an alternative report. Refer: Appendix 4. 

Consultation with Martang Pty Ltd and Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation:

“The Registered Aboriginal Party for the project area, Martang Pty Ltd, approved the Cultural Heritage Management Plan for the upgrade in October 2013 in accordance with the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. This included measures for the protection and respectful management of 21 Aboriginal Heritage places as part of the project.”

I understand that Martang Pty ltd. has been de registered and no longer exists. Martang Pty Ltd is a small family trust group; Richard Wynne MP gave Martang permission to be a Registered Aboriginal Party 10 years ago under the provision that they change the corporate structure so as to represent all Aboriginal people in the area. Martang is not a true representation of the Djab Wurrung people. Refer: Appendix 5

It appears as if some of the members of Martang have benefited financially from becoming part of the approval process.

Posted by Lidia GunnaiGunditj Thorpe on Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Concerns have also been raised about the influence the Victorian Government has bought to bear on members of Eastern Maar.  Jason Mifsud the chair of Eastern Marr was previously the Executive Director for Aboriginal Victoria is currently running his own consulting business and is now chair of the Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations. Geoff Clark another member of the Eastern Maar Board is currently facing numerous fraud charges and is in a position where by it would be easy to persuade him to follow a certain path.

Eastern Marr is in the process of finalising a very favourable native title claim with the Victorian Government. I am not suggesting that it is a case of one hand washing the other but in an environment where an extremely important cultural decision is required that will change the very culture of our society through recognising the fundamental structural element to respect family and community within the fabric of our law, it is imperative to keep an arms distance from each of the negotiating parties or else the onlookers will suspect foul play. The letter I have received states: “Major Road Projects Victoria with its predecessor Vic Roads, have also been working closely with the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation since 2017 who also have a native title application over the area.”

How closely?

  • Treaty, Cultural Heritage, the relevance to every Australian Family:

I understand there were twenty trees under threat, of which fifteen were horse traded and five have been allotted for the chain saw, you have mentioned two trees now to be protected by a very expensive roundabout which illustrates that unfortunately, you simply, as yet have not embraced the depth of the current situation. This is not about saving a tree and cutting down another tree, it is about respecting a very special and significant part of Victoria that ties us back to a people`s who lived and still live here. It is their spirituality that will be further desecrated when we all know this spirituality needs to be recognised, respected and become part of Australian contemporary culture in order to heal this nation of the brutality of its past.

The plan to build a four lane highway through a sacred part of the land, a part that is representative of fertility, procreation, the birth of children, the continuation of life and its connection to family is abusive, violent and barbaric. This is the land of the pregnant princess, a fertile land where women came to give birth to their children, in a part of the land protected by the spirit formed by sacred birthing trees, funeral trees, signal trees and many other trees, an ecology that has been in existence since eternity which has been protected by a 50,000 year old culture who have realised its importance to the continuation of a civilised society by respecting its existence as sacred.

The Federal and Victorian Governments are funding a road based upon a plan which uses false statistics, that professes to save lives in order to justify the expense of millions of dollars of public money on road building, a plan that ignores the very basic ecological fundamentals of Large Old Trees and ignores their significant connection to the cultural of the Aboriginal people.

The plan professes to have followed a process of integrity by consulting with two groups of traditional Aboriginal owners.  Group one Martang, who are deregistered and have obtained financial gain in approving the project, the other Eastern Marr, a male dominated group who have a very close association with the Victorian Government and are vulnerable to government persuasion.

The underlying decision to allocate an enormous amount of public money into building a highway to the South Australian border cannot have been thought through; after all we do have a railway track. A large number of very large trucks are using the road carrying freight directly from Melbourne to Adelaide, has the railway option been investigated as rail freight is far less labour and energy intensive, which means there are lower costs and far lower carbon inputs into the atmosphere.  I realise that our governments have dispensed with any form of long term planning and we do not have a government department that is responsible for energy usage, but even an idiot can work out that the current idea of the road will consume more energy to operate and more energy to build than running the existing railway line efficiently which will result in more greenhouse gasses and more damage to the atmosphere.  One has to ask are both governments making decisions based upon the interests of the Western Industrial Complex ahead of the tax payers who fund the projects, and how are the wheels greased in this mechanism?

The money allocated for this road could quite easily be diverted to land reclamation, through reforestation projects, projects which would provide the growth of a local industry that would engage young people in a worthwhile activity whilst simultaneously improving the health of the ecology and the environment. It would also improve the health and wellbeing of the families in the community by diverting the young people away from lives of drugs and crime which would in turn keep them out of the criminal justice system and provide a positive return on the investment. Instead the plan is to build a road which will harm the environment, provide a negative return on investment and create 2000 jobs for a very short term and at the same time destroy a sacred area which in turn will make a mockery of the sorry statement and the attempts to reconcile the damage done to the original peoples of this nation by disrespecting their spiritual; awareness of the land. Refer Appendix 6.

The damage done by this culture of abuse and violence that began 230 years ago which resulted in a whole race of people being driven into poverty who happen to die 17 years before the rest of us and whose children were stolen from them and are incarcerated in our jails at 14 times the rate of the rest of the population, is perpetuated by this distortion of the truth and it is the business of every person who lives in Australia that cares. It is vital the treaty process with the Aboriginal people is guided by Aboriginal voices and is not corrupted by a process that ignores the significance of their culture through the influence of financial incentives, as this treaty will lay the ground work for all of Australia and will influence the way all institutions within this country behave and treat the families and communities that form this nation.  

I look forward to hearing from you and hearing that the plan to build the road through a sacred place has been abandoned. If you require further information please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best regards

Diarmuid Hannigan.

CC: Scott Morrison, The Prime Minister. Ken Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Australians. Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Richard Wynne, Minister for Planning.  Jalla Pulford, Minister for Roads. Gavin Jennings, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria. Jacinta Allan, Minister for Transport Infrastructure.

Appendix.

  1. Unfortunately there are many road casualties that cannot be mitigated by a road upgrade as they involve:   excessive speed, a mechanical failure, a medical incident that impairs the driver which can physical or physiological, deliberate action by the driver to cause death and alcohol or drug intoxication.  

There was one head on but it did not involve overtaking?  Three roll overs, single car accidents, Three ran into parked cars, Three out of control, one rear ender, one crash at an intersection. Twelve all up. Two involved heavy vehicles one was a truck that got out of control on a straight. The other involved a truck and a car at an intersection at night. That intersection is a problem because it is on a bend and is on the brow of a hill. There should be better lighting and speed restriction signs on that intersection particularly with the car park across the road and more people there. 

Attachment 1: Spread sheet of crash statisticsbetween Buangor and Ararat over the past five years.

https://vicroadsopendata-vicroadsmaps.opendata.arcgis.com/datasets/c2a69622ebad42e7baaa8167daa72127_0/data?geometry=142.929%2C-37.363%2C143.256%2C-37.315&orderBy=ACCIDENT_DATE&orderByAsc=false
  • (MRPV) predict that the WHP2 would reduce the crash rate from 5.5 to 3.4 per 100 million km (when constructed to AMP1 standard), therefore it is expected to substantially reduce the incidence of casualty crashes.                                                                                                                                             Attachment 2: (Western Highway Project Section 2 Beaufort to Ararat assessment under   environment effects Act 1978.)  
  • Western Highway Duplication Section 2 Beaufort to Ararat, Underestimation of Large Old Trees within the Environment Effects Statement.

“There is a sufficient body of literature that establishes the values of large old trees and demonstrates that a major decline in the number of large old trees within rural landscapes poses significant consequences for biodiversity and agricultural productivity (Gibbons et al. 2008, Manning et al. 2012, Lindenmayer et al. 2014). It has been argued that policies aimed at sustaining large old trees must accommodate differences from the traditional conservation approaches that aim to prevent the extinction of threatened species or communities (Blicharska and Mikusinski 2014, Lindenmayer 2014). It has also been suggested that rather than a given tree species going extinct, its large old tree life stage may go extinct temporarily or permanently (Lindenmayer et al 2014). Lindenmayer et al. 2012 describes the potential for a “functional extinction” where the key ecological roles of large old trees may be lost from certain landscapes even though the particular tree species remains extant. In terms of the Western Highway Duplication (Section 2), it may be considered that the EES scoping requirements and evaluation objectives automatically encompassed the value of LOTs by requiring the Project to achieve compliance with Victoria’s Native Vegetation Management Framework – A Framework for Action. The Framework certainly recognises LOTs as “important environmental assets that are being progressively lost and are impossible to replace in the short term” (NRE 2002, p. 24), however this is more within the context of them needing to be accounted for within offsets, rather than them being a major determining factor in responses to clearing proposals (this aspect being driven more by Conservation Significance as per Table 6, p. 54 of the Framework). It is important for VicRoads to note that the current Permitted Clearing Regulations (DEPI 2013) (which did not apply at the time of the Section 2 EES) do not require LOTs to be accounted for within proposals to clear native vegetation or as part of native vegetation offsets. As such, there is somewhat greater potential for the value of LOTs to be overlooked on projects assessed under the current regulations. For these reasons, VicRoads needs to shift its thinking beyond a compliance-based statutory focus, and understand that in some instances, the focus may need to be broadened beyond threatened species and ecological communities to encompass important local values”.

“Summary The duplication of the Western Highway between Beaufort and Ararat (Section 2 of the Western Highway Project) has been the subject of intense public scrutiny given the significant amount of native vegetation removal associated with the Project. It has become widely known that the removal of 221 Large Old Trees (LOTs) as stated in the Project’s Environment Effects Statement (EES), was a severe underestimate and the actual number of LOTs removed is now known to be approximately 1350”

“In terms of the Western Highway Duplication (Section 2), it may be considered that the EES scoping requirements and evaluation objectives automatically encompassed the value of LOTs by requiring the Project to achieve compliance with Victoria’s Native Vegetation Management Framework – A Framework for Action. The Framework certainly recognises LOTs as “important environmental assets that are being progressively lost and are impossible to replace in the short term” (NRE 2002, p. 24), however this is more within the context of them needing to be accounted for within offsets, rather than them being a major determining factor in responses to clearing proposals (this aspect being driven more by Conservation Significance as per Table 6, p. 54 of the Framework).

It is important for VicRoads to note that the current Permitted Clearing Regulations (DEPI 2013) (which did not apply at the time of the Section 2 EES) do not require LOTs to be accounted for within proposals to clear native vegetation or as part of native vegetation offsets. As such, there is somewhat greater potential for the value of LOTs to be overlooked on projects assessed under the current regulations. For these reasons, VicRoads needs to shift its thinking beyond a compliance-based statutory focus, and understand that in some instances, the focus may need to be broadened beyond threatened species and ecological communities to encompass important local values.”

Attachment 3: Western Highway Duplication Section 2 Beaufort to Ararat, Underestimation of Large Old Trees within the Environment Effects Statement.

  • Attachment 4:   Estimated Net Gain Losses for Alternative Alignments of Western Highway Duplication: Section 2: Beaufort to Ararat, Hillside Rd. Area – Comparison of environmental impacts.
  • The Ararat Advertiser.

OCTOBER 13 2014 – 12:00AM

$90,000 for Martang to protect cultural heritage

MINISTER for Aboriginal Affairs Tim Bull, announced $90,000 in Victorian Coalition Government funding to support Martang Pty Ltd to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage and facilitate economic development. Joining Martang community leaders at an event in Ararat with the Nationals candidate for Ripon, Scott Turner, Mr Bull said the funding will provide continued assistance to the organisation in delivering key responsibilities under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.

“The Martang Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) represents the Djab Wurrung peoples located east of the Grampians Ranges, in managing their rich cultural heritage,” Mr Bull said. “Victorian Coalition Government funding will enable Martang RAP to continue its important work evaluating and approving cultural heritage management plans to facilitate job-creating infrastructure projects such as the upgrade of the Western Highway.”

Mr Turner said the funding will ensure Martang has the capacity to work with key stakeholders east of the Grampians including Ararat, Pyrenees, Moyne, Southern Grampians and Northern Grampians’ local government councils to deliver economic development alongside management of the region’s significant cultural heritage. “The Victorian Coalition Government is empowering Aboriginal people to have a strong voice in managing their cultural heritage,”                                                                                                                                                               

Mr Turner said. “Today’s announcement demonstrates the Coalition’s strong commitment to protecting and promoting Aboriginal cultural heritage for the benefit of all current and future Victorians.”

Mr Bull congratulated Martang members for their leadership role working constructively with the Victorian Government in the development of a stronger and more efficient cultural heritage protection system.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-05/documents-reveal-land-deal-behind-western-highway-dispute/11473922?pfmredir=sm

Documents reveal million-dollar deal

Documents uncovered by the ABC show the Aboriginal authority that signed off on the highway benefited from the project. VicRoads signed the lucrative land deal with the now-defunct Martang Registered Aboriginal Party, which formally approved the highway project in 2013.Twelve months later, in October 2014, Victoria’s roads department gave the authority — all members of one family — hundreds of hectares of land east of the highway, as part of a Trust for Nature covenant.

Martang’s business arm bought the land and was then refunded the cost through the covenant. In return for conserving the site from development, Martang was promised annual royalties amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars over ten years. It was part of a requirement to offset the road’s destruction of native vegetation that the department was obligated to meet before works could start. On 1 August 2019, Martang had its formal registration as an Aboriginal Party revoked under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 S.156(2)(a). When the RAP is no longer registered under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006, de-registration is automatic. The revocation of registration of a RAP does not impact on statutory decisions made by that RAP when registered.

  • Attachment 7: How to invest money into land reclamation, improve the environment, save money and reduce crime.                              The Sentencing Advisory Council found that in 2017 the rates of imprisonment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders was 1,833.9 per 100,000 adults compared with 145.4 for all Victorians.
  • Attachment 5: Letter from Jacinta Alan.
  • Attachment 6: Original two letters to Sussan Ley.
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