By Darren Coyne
Opponents of the proposed North Lismore Plateau development are questioning a report that suggests two buried bodies located in part of the development site belonged to early settlers of the area.
The report by Georadar Pty Ltd for the Everick Heritage Consultants , who are acting for the developers, presents the results of a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) Survey performed on 18 January 2017 at the Winten Property Group Site on the North Lismore Plateau.
The objectives of the GPR survey were to establish if a grave-like feature was a human burial, or not.
The report concludes: ‘From an examination of the GPR data, it is our interpretation that this grave-like feature near the ridge line on the Winten Property Group site on the North Lismore Plateau represents the probable burial of two persons. They appear to be the graves of early settlers inferred to be from the 1850 – 1890 period,’ the report states.
‘The interpreted burial on the north western side of the inferred grave appears to be an adult of full stature, and the adjacent burial appears to be more diminutive and possible represents a female, or a large (teenage) child.’
The report also states that ‘The inferred burial appears to have been made directly into the soil, and not in a coffin.’
The state government last year approved the rezoning of the North Lismore Plateau, paving the way for a residential development catering to more than 3600 people.
It was the second time a rezoning of the 255 hectares of land has been approved, with the first approval thrown out by the NSW Land and Environment Court following a challenge by Bundjalung man Michael Ryan.
As yet though, despite reports in the Murdoch-owned media that a development application would be lodged last month, the Lismore City Council is yet to receive any application, despite former mayor Jenny Dowel telling Echonetdaily in 2016 that building was expected to begin by the end of that year.
Opponents believe that the hold-up is because they are unable to satisfy the requirements of a cultural heritage study, which would be instrumental to any possible approval granted for the proposed development.
Opponents, led by Mr Ryan, are poised to mount a legal challenge when a DA is lodged, and briefed a barrister this week about the GPR report.
Echonetdaily was unable to contact Mr Ryan this morning, but Mr Al Oshlack, who is a member of the North Plateau Protection Group, said there was no way any development could proceed before heritage issues were sorted out.
‘They are trying to get Uncle Mickey to sign off on the report but he is refusing to do it,’ Mr Oshlack said.
Mr Oshlack said opponents would be contacting the police, the NSW Office of the Environment and Heritage and the Lismore City Council about their concerns.
He said opponents questioned the conclusion of the report.
‘There is no way to tell this is a European grave and it could well and truly be an Aboriginal grave from post contact,’ he said.
‘The barrister is very confident, and very concerned, about the fact that there were bald statements in the report from the ground penetrating radar. There is no evidence that dates the burial site.
‘Uncle Mickey went to the local historical society and was told that if the bodies were non-indigenous it was highly unlikely that they would be put in an unmarked grave without coffins.’
Mr Oshlack said the burial site was close to another registered Aboriginal burial site, and another excavation site that contained both European and Aboriginal artefacts.
‘A concern that Uncle Mickey has raised is that Aboriginal artefacts from that site are now missing,’ he said.
Echonetdaily reported last year that archeologists investigating ancient stonewalls and other sites on the North Lismore Plateau believe the area could be as culturally significant as Uluru.
Mr Ryan said at the time that the advice from the archeologists from Tocomwall, an Aboriginal cultural heritage consultancy firm that provides archeological, ecological and cultural heritage services across Australia, confirmed what he had been telling the council for a long time … that the plateau was highly significant to Aboriginal people and should be protected.
In June this year, Winten development manager Jim Punch told Murdoch-owned media that the company was very close to lodging its final development application for the project.
Mr Punch said claims that a rock wall on the plateau site was of Aboriginal heritage had been comprehensively refuted by heritage consultants.