The deadline for public comment on the Brighton Bypass was last Friday. Have not seen anything in the news since then. Latest news coverage is from last WednesdayAborigines in bypass camp protest"It is the first time we have come down here in 200 years and enjoyed the site and it is spiritual," [Trudy Maluga from TAC] said.
"It was a magnificent feeling and it has given us the strength to fight from this site until the end."
The Brighton Bypass is the four lane highway being constructed the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources (DIER) to bypass Brighton, the last town on the Midlands Hwy. I assume the grand plan is to eventually bypass all the towns along this route. The central towns were passed by a couple of decades ago and now they're working on the southern bit. Aboriginal heritage investigations across the Brighton Bypass alignment commenced in 1990s. However the site at the Jordan River was not identified until late 2008 when it was described as a surface scatter of approximately 20 artefacts with potential for subsurface values due to the nature of the landscape feature.
A subsurface investigation on the Jordan River levee commenced in early August 2009.
DIER's consultants completed an archaeological investigation of the Jordan River levee in February 2010. A final report on the investigation was made available on 2nd August 2010.From DIER's "Fact Sheet 4: Archaeology & Definition of the site" (PDF).
The report that came back said things like:However, the real value of the JRL sequence is that it provides a rare insight into a period of human history during the Last Ice Age, of which little if know, either in Tasmania or on the Australian mainland. This is particularly the case at open sites with nearly all older Tasmanian sites being rock shelters
andThe JRL site was utilized by highly mobile prehistoric hunter-gatherer groups. The lack of locally available raw material forced groups to bring their own raw material to the site, to conserver these raw materials and to continue to transport those items that were not exhausted for future use elsewhere. The primary activities undertaken at the site were tool maintenance and rejuvenation, with very low levels of manufacture also present. … The presence of Aboriginal flaked pieces of glass at the JRL site provides evidence of a connection between Aboriginal and European occupation at the site during the historic period. This site with its sound stratigraphic profile and dates extending from ~41,000 years through to the European contact period is remarkable.
(Both quotes from Final Archaeological Report - Executive Summary(PDF)
DIER claim that by moving a couple of pylons here and using different transport techniques there and using light vehicles to do this bit, they can still build their bridge with hopefully minimal disturbance to the site
and the baits used won't affect the bird life-- oops, different department
. The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) aren't impressed by that solution. They've submitted an application (PDF)
to the Minister for the Environment, to have the site protected, which has some interesting reading in it. One bit:While Aborigines today still proudly honour their cultural past, the full manifestations of Aboriginal existence for the tens of thousands of years before 1800 are relatively unrecognised. The site has the potential to reveal some of these stories and important information about traditional practices and elements of the daily lifestyles of the people who camped, made tools, hunted, gathered resources travelled through, met other Aboriginal groups, traded, and so on in the Jordan River valley.
According to their website, similar content was used in applications for World Heritage Listing and National Heritage Listing, and an application for entry to the Tasmania Heritage Register
was made. If any of those are successful, it should resolve the issue. Heritage trumps most arguments.
It seems there are alternative routes that could be used, but of course they'd cost more. Earlier this month, the Federal Infrastructure Minister visited the site
. "I have been calling for months now that this site be granted National Heritage listing and the road alignment be adjusted a little to leave this site untouched."
Independent Andrew Wilkie"We can put a road alignment, a bridge, elsewhere. We cannot replace this internationally significant site."
Greens leader Bob BrownDIER's and other documents are available hereTAC's documents are available here