A FEDERAL government decision to put a protection order on a Mount Panorama site has raised more issues than it has resolved in the eyes of some councillors.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley revealed on Monday that she had made a declaration under Section 10 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act (ATSIHP), which will prevent a go-kart track being constructed at the back of McPhillamy Park.
Deputy mayor Ian North said that Ms Ley should have to provide further explanation of her decision, particularly to the Bathurst Local Aboriginal Land Council, which has supported the track going ahead.
"I'm disappointed that a democratic process doesn't seem to have been followed," he said.
"Even the minister's [commissioned] report agrees with us and I'd like an explanation to the land council, why their opinion hasn't been used.
"... I think they've got to explain with respect to the elders and the land council, the other ones in town, why their information less credible than the Traditional Owners."
He also questioned why the protection is only for a period of 10 years.
"If it's sacred and significant, does it lose its sacredness and significance in 10 years? Surely if something is something - and there's no tangible, as such, proof - why is it only 10 years?" he asked.
"I'm a little bit lost by that."
The Western Advocate asked the minister's office for clarification on the 10-year period for protection.
In response, a spokesperson said that the act requires a period of time to be set and 10 years "aligns with the life of legislative instruments more broadly".
"The existing declaration may be extended without an additional Section 10 application," they said.
Like Cr North, Cr Graeme Hanger was also disappointed by the minister's decision, but had half-expected it after her previous statements.
He was also concerned that the area covered by the protection order, which is smaller than the applicant had asked for, was the shape of the proposed go-kart track and didn't contain significant sites flagged by the traditional owners.
"It's interesting that it's the shape of the go-kart track and doesn't include anything else," Cr Hanger said.
"But it is what it is, a decision has been made. It would be very interesting to have the minister explain exactly why she picked the go-kart area as an area of Aboriginal significance. Why is the go-kart track itself a significant Aboriginal area when other parts of the mountain aren't?"
While Cr Hanger said that "morally" council should fight the minister's decision, he wasn't sure at this stage if council would pursue any further action.
Cr Jess Jennings certainly thinks its time for council and the community to accept the decision and move on.
"The main message is that it's time to move on. A decision has been made, council won't be in a position to appeal it or any sort of counter move, and it needs to abide by this decision and now start working on the best way forward to heal the divisions in the community," he said.
He said council needs to find another location for the go-kart track, and he stands by his calls for it to be in the second circuit precinct.
Another Section 10 application, yet to be determined, includes the land designated for the second circuit, but Cr Jennings said there is no need to be concerned about that.
"Everything has to be done in consultation with the key stakeholders, of which the elders are a significant stakeholder, but they've made it clear - they've already written letters and communicated to council through their lawyers as well that they would be comfortable with the go-kart track going in the second circuit," he said.
Cr John Fry agreed, saying that Section 10 application is "less relevant" now.
He said the decision made by the minister was the right one and concurred that it was time to find a new location, saying it was up to the five councillors who have continued to vote in favour of the track to now join the others in doing so.
"It's time to find a new location for the go-kart track," Cr Fry said.
"We, me and the other three councillors, have been trying to engage with the other five for a long time to look for alternative locations.
"Personally, I can keep working with those people, but the ball is in their court now. It's up to them to move forward and move on."
Cr Hanger has sympathy for the Bathurst Kart Club, which has again had its track hopes quashed, and said he hopes other people in the community will help the club to find a new location.
"All the opposition, all the people who've opposed it, have said they are so in favour for a go-kart track," he said.
"Let's see how in favour they are by how they are willing to become involved in finding another spot."
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