A tree felled by contractors at Agnes Water. Indigenous locals say the trees are on a sacred site and they weren't consulted.
A tree felled by contractors at Agnes Water. Indigenous locals say the trees are on a sacred site and they weren't consulted.

Cultural value checks of trees up to Agnes developer

CHECKING the cultural significance of trees felled at Agnes Water yesterday by contractors isn’t covered by Queensland planning guidelines, an Indigenous resident has been told.

Cherissma Blackman-Costelloe contacted The Observer on Wednesday claiming three trees, more than 100 years old, felled on property along Springs Road were on a sacred site used for centuries to make canoes by the Meeroni people.

She said she approached contractors conducting the work and requested them to stop, as the trees were on a sacred site.

“My people’s natural and customary rights date far back as any earthly instrument can carbon date,” she said.

“I am the holder of Native Title rights, due to our consent determination of Native Title 2017, which the Mayor was a part of.”

The significance of the trees and the site is strong in Meeroni culture.

“These culturally significant trees are a part of a larger eco systems for the local native trees,” Mrs Blackman-Costelloe said.

“These Native Trees, in turn, are habitat for our Totems, our Moitey and Skin Spirits.

“Nothing I can completely describe on paper.

“Under common law the Cultural Heritage, Environment and Bio Diversity Act or even the Native Title Act underpin the commitment from three tiers of government to preserve our Culture and Customs.”

When she complained to Gladstone Regional Council about the work, Mrs Blackman-Costelloe said she received this response:

“Council can advise that we believe that this is the approved Operational Work at the Caravan Park and this is not Council activity,” a spokesperson said in an email.

“There is no registered Queensland/Local Heritage Significance as per the Planning Scheme. “As such, it is upon the developer to check any cultural significance prior to commencing construction.

“It is strictly the developer’s responsibility to take all reasonable and practicable measures to ensure that the activity does not harm Aboriginal Cultural Heritage in accordance with the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003.”

The Observer phoned the developer, 1770 projects, at 12.15pm Wednesday for comment, and left a message on voicemail.

An email was then sent to the project manager with a series of questions regarding whether the cultural significance of the site was investigated.

No response had been received from by close of business.



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