Traditional owners criticise nuclear dump process

Posted: Fri, September 12, 2014

Traditional owners consider information at the nuclear waste dump consultations.

Sixty traditional owners from the Tanami Desert and neighbouring land owners yesterday expressed their frustration with the federal government's nomination process for a proposed radioactive waste management facility and with the lack of information from the government.
"The public servants were unable to explain many of the details we had repeatedly requested from Minister Macfarlane and his department", said Central Land Council Director David Ross after a meeting at the Tanami Mine, 340 kilometers north west of Yuendumu.
"For example, people got no answers about how the nuclear waste would be transported or about the comprehensive benefits package the minister had flagged. No wonder they said they were dissatisfied."
Mr Ross said the process enshrined in the National Radioactive Waste Management Act 2012 expected traditional owners to volunteer a site without knowing the full details of the government’s proposal.
"Yet once a site is nominated traditional owners cannot change their mind when they find out the full story", he said. "A nuclear waste dump is forever, so it's just not fair to ask people to make such a big decision without a comprehensive proposal."
"We told the government since 2005 that its process and legislation were incompatible with the principle of prior informed consent", said Mr Ross.
The meeting instructed the CLC to write to the minister again, requesting further information.
The CLC convened the meeting with representatives of the Department of Industry, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and an independent radiation health expert so that traditional owners could learn more about the proposed facility.
In August it received a request for information from a group of traditional owners who had been contacted by the NT government, after the minister had told NT land councils they had until 30 September to nominate a site.
The CLC has a legal duty to consult with the wider traditional owner group about any proposal for the use of their land, ensure they fully understand the nature and effect of any proposal and obtain their informed consent before any proposal can go ahead.
It must also give communities or groups affected by a proposal an opportunity to express their views and will therefore go ahead with scheduled meetings in Balgo, Lajamanu and Yuendumu in the week starting 22 September.
The CLC’s governing body of 90 traditional owners will consider the outcome of the consultations at its next meeting in November. Under the current process only the Council can nominate a site, based on the prior informed consent of traditional owners.
12 September 2014
Contact: Elke Wiesmann 0417 877 579,
Images from the meeting are available on request.