A redacted copy of the 2013 Ainsworth Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment document has been made publicly available on the Rous County Council website, clarifying the extensive Widjabul Wia-bul connections with the land which would have been inundated by the Dunoon Dam.
Much discussed in the dam debate, but only available to a select audience until now, the extraordinarily thorough and detailed report is available as a PDF here, having had sensitive information removed for a public audience.
Chair of Rous County Council, Keith Williams, said the public release of the 2013 Ainsworth Culture Heritage Impact Assessment should end the claims by some councillors that the indigenous heritage in the Dunoon area has either not been properly investigated or simply doesn’t exist.
He told The Echo the report ‘fundamentally’ changed his view.
Numerous graves and other heritage
The 463 page Ainsworth Report details substantial indigenous heritage within the proposed Dunoon dam site that it has assessed as State Significant and unlikely to receive approval should Rous attempt to proceed with the dam, without having exhausted all other potential avenues of water supply.
Until recently the report has remained confidential, based on the concerns expressed by the Widjabul Wia-bul Traditional Custodians at the exposure of culturally sensitive and personal information and the risk of vandalism at the sites.
Cr Williams told The Echo, ‘I am grateful to the Traditional Custodians for the trust they placed in me to allow me to view a copy of the report during the consultation period for the Rous Future Water Plan. It changed my view on the feasibility of a dam completely.
‘There are clearly many more burials than I was initially led to believe, including from times prior to European settlement. The description of the site as “State Significant” should ring alarm bells for any proposed development in the area.’
Cr Williams also expressed his gratitude to the Traditional Custodians for allowing a de-identified version of the document to be published.
‘I understand the sensitivity of the material and the deep significance of the the area to the Traditional Custodians,’ he said. ‘This would have been a difficult decision. I hope it is just the start of a renewed trust between Rous, the Traditional Custodians and the community.’
Genuine communication and consultation needed, not dog whistling
Cr Williams said allowing publication of the information will help the community better understand the rationale for his decision to put the dam to one side, while Rous Council enters into genuine consultation with the Widjabul Wia-bul Custodians and explores all other viable water supply options.
‘The publication of the Ainsworth Report should put an end to the racist dog whistle of a campaign, that we just need more studies. What we need is the willingness to accept what is already known,’ he said.
While the Dunoon Dam has been rejected on multiple occasions by Rous County Council on heritage and other grounds, a group of councillors from Richmond Valley and Ballina are continuing to agitate for the option to be re-considered.
More stories about Dunoon Dam:
As Water Week draws to a close, with a theme of 'Caring for Water and Country', a group of Widjabul Wia-bal elders have emphatically said they do not want the Dunoon Dam proposal to be put back on the table by pro-dam councillors.
A redacted copy of the 2013 Ainsworth Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment document has been made publicly available on the Rous County Council website, clarifying the extensive Widjabul-Wiabul connections with the land which would have been inundated by the Dunoon Dam.
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