Australian billionaire blocked from establishing river weirs for cattle

The tribunal upheld Aboriginal heritage rights
calendar icon 7 April 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

A company owned by Australia's richest man has lost an appeal against a decision made under Aboriginal heritage laws that stopped it from building a series of weirs on a river that ran through a cattle property, reported Reuters.

Forrest and Forrest, a private company of iron ore billionaire Andrew Forrest and his wife, Nicola, had sought to build the weirs along the Ashburton river to enable greater water capture which could then be used on the property.

The Western Australian State Administrative Tribunal upheld a 2019 decision by the state's minister for aboriginal affairs to reject the plan, citing the importance of the river to the Indigenous Buurabalayji Thalanyji people, who are the Native Title holders of the land.

"We have found that in the Thalanyji culture, the River is regarded with deep respect and reverence, and for that reason, we have found that the River is sacred to the Thalanyji people," the tribunal said in its decision, which was released late on Thursday.

The tribunal also said the riverbanks and locations of the proposed weirs were of archaeological interest and significant for cultural heritage.

"We are grateful the decision puts our spiritual connection and culture before private cattle interests," the Buurabalayji Thalanyji Aboriginal Corporation said in a statement.

A spokesman for Harvest Road, a company owned by Forrest's private investment group Tattarang, said in an emailed statement that they wished to work collaboratively with the Thalanyji people to nourish the water and land at the property.

"We are considering our options and remain willing to engage with the Buurabalayji Thalanyji Aboriginal Corporation in respect of achieving an outcome that improves the sustainability of agriculture in the area."

Forrest is chairman and the largest shareholder of iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group.

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