Kempsey Shire Council voluntarily suspended all works on the sealing of Point Plomer Road on Wednesday, February 10, until the end of the week.
Council has been informed of applications made under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 (ATSIHP Act) related to the area of Point Plomer Road.
Council is not required to cease work because of this application but has acted in good faith and will pause civil works associated with the sealing of Point Plomer Road until the end of the week, awaiting further clarification from the Federal Government.
The ATSIHP Act is Federal legislation and can protect areas and objects that are of particular significance to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, subject to a declaration by the Federal Minister for the Environment.
Applications made under this Act seek immediate, short and longer term declarations for protection.
Director Operations and Planning, Robert Fish advised that council is liaising with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment in relation to the applications and has provided a comprehensive history of the project, design details and outlined the due diligence undertaken in relation to Aboriginal Heritage.
"While council respects that there is an opportunity under the provisions of the Act to make applications such as these, it's disappointing that this action has been taken once works have commenced given it has been more than two years since council resolved to seal the road," he said.
"It's important to highlight again that the sealed road is being largely constructed on top of the existing road to minimise any environmental or heritage impact. The current works will likely result in less long-term environmental impact than the current regular cycle of grading and gravel resheeting, as we saw over the recent Christmas holidays where the road condition was so poor that many vehicles were driving off road."
Council has been informed that its actions to date in planning and commencing the work have been based on best practice.
Contactors commenced work this week on Point Plomer Road to construct and seal the road.
A decision is expected by the end of the week on the initial application for an emergency declaration, which will impact potential resumption of work.
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