Western Highway duplication: Eastern Maar investigates trees

The Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation has been asked to inspect potentially significant trees on the planned Western Highway duplication route at Buangor.

Martang, the Registered Aboriginal Party for the area, cleared the trees on the highway route during the initial planning.

Djab Wurrung traditional owners and other Aboriginal women not connected with Martang have also inspected the trees.

Eastern Maar director Jamie Lowe said the group was now investigating the trees at the request of Martang, but would not comment on its findings.

“Martang thought it was respectful for us to comment, we have had a number of discussions, but we won’t go on the record until we have had our internal stuff sorted out,” he said.

Eastern Maar’s territory covers an area from Warrnambool to Ararat.

A spokesperson for Planning Minister Richard Wynne said there was nothing more important than indigenous heritage and protecting it.

“The minister is awaiting further advice regarding heritage and environmental effects before deciding on the most appropriate route,” he said.

VicRoads halted construction of the Buangor to Ararat duplication in February when it was revealed planning permits had lapsed.

It coincided with a Supreme Court Challenge against the chosen alignment. The plantiffs in the case, known as the KORs group, wanted Mr Wynne to appoint an independent panel to reassess the best route for the duplication.

KORs asked for a report from landscape archaeology expert Dr Heather Builth.

Dr Builth said there were two trees in particular, which showed signs cutting and burning to make a hollow.

A final decision on the highway route could hinge on advice Eastern Maar gives Aboriginal Victoria and the planning minister.

Another woman, Gillian Trebilcock, said she and Djab Wurrung elder Sandra Onus met with the minister’s staff and were assured the advice of Eastern Maar would be considered.

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