Tasmania’s government has ruled out reopening 4WD tracks on culturally significant land in the state’s rugged west, ending a near decade-long battle.
A recent cultural assessment report found the three tracks in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area directly intersect 35 Aboriginal heritage sites and potentially put another 26 at risk.
The off-road tracks were shut in 2012 under the Labor-Greens government but the ruling Liberal state government pledged to reopen them during their successful 2014 election campaign.
On Monday, Parks Minister Jacquie Petrusma announced the government would no longer pursue reopening the tracks.
‘We are over the moon,” Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre CEO Heather Sculthorpe told AAP.
“We are so happy that after nearly a decade this has come to an end. The Aboriginal community has been doing everything we can to stop this rubbish.”
The recent report also found the government’s reopening plan did not do enough to minimise risk to the sites, which contain Indigenous middens and burial grounds.
“The Tasmanian government has made the decision not to proceed with the submission of a Public Environment Report to reopen three tracks in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area,” Ms Petrusma said.
“We recognise the importance of recreational off-road vehicle access to the Tasmanian community and will continue to work to develop further opportunities on the west coast.”
She said the state government has “worked hard” to reopen the tracks with an access plan they believed would protect the Aboriginal cultural heritage values in the area.
The Liberal government had a legal challenge against the tracks’ closure dismissed by the Federal Court in 2016.
Minister Petrusma said the government will invest $10 million into a program to provide new and improved recreational driving opportunities on the west coast.
The government also pledged to increase the management and enforcement of regulations in the conservation area and boost Parks and Wildlife Service staffing at Arthur River.
The Arthur-Pieman tracks sit within the Braddon electorate, where the Liberals hold three of five seats.
4WD Tasmania, which has about 300 members, has been among those pushing for access to the tracks.
State Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said plans to reopen the tracks were “always going to fail”.
“Let’s hope this provides an opportunity for a genuine reset with Aboriginal Tasmanians and that their priceless heritage is never again kicked around like a political football for short-term gain,” she said.