NSW increases fines for damaging Aboriginal sites
Louise Hall; 23/4/10
Developers and farmers who unwittingly damage an Aboriginal object or site will face fines of up to $1.1 million under a controversial overhaul of laws designed to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage. In an attempt to shore up the green vote, the NSW government says the hefty penalties will decrease the widespread destruction of indigenous artefacts by landholders who have claimed ignorance or chosen to pay fines, currently as low as $5500. But indigenous groups say the amendments to the National Parks and Wildlife Act do not go far enough, as officials can still issue permits authorising the destruction or removal of items such as skeletal remains, middens, stone artefacts, rock shelters and carved trees. Permits are issued at the rate of three a week to developers, mining companies and government departments such as the Roads and Traffic Authority. Yet the government successfully prosecuted just 10 cases of wilful or flagrant destruction or desecration by those without a permit between 2005 and 2009.