The West Australian government has directed Main Roads to halt works and negotiate with Traditional Owners over a bridge design Traditional Owners have claimed would threaten cultural heritage and the environment.
A group of 12 Traditional Owners had raised concerns over the design of the Lloyd Street Bridge in Perth’s east.
The group applied for a review of the project by federal authorities under Section 10 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act.
In March the former Federal government confirmed it would review the project.
On Thursday WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said a new proposal would move the bridge further west to a narrower crossing of the Helena River.
Ms Saffioti said the re-alignment proposed was less imposing on Aboriginal heritage sites, native vegetation, wetlands, and on the river floodplain.
“I originally supported the first proposed alignment because it was put forward by the City of Swan and connected the northern and southern approaches of Lloyd Street, which council only completed in mid-2020,” she said.
“However, as the local Traditional Owners and groups have suggested the new proposal, I am happy for us to examine this and see how it may work.”
Ms Saffioti said the State had taken on the bridge on behalf of the City of Swan, and will continue to work to make it happen.
The City of Swan delivered the northern and southern sections of the project, which is co-funded by State and Federal governments.
“While we undertake these discussions, the project will be placed on hold. Discussions with the contractors are underway,” Ms Saffioti said.
Ms Saffioti said the government would address concerns of Traditional Owners and other local groups, while meeting road network efficiency and connectivity requirements.
Noongar man Greg Ugle said the outcome should serve as a reminder the days of considering Aboriginal cultural heritage as the lowest priority were over.
“It is time that Aboriginal people were genuinely and respectfully involved in decision making that affects our heritage, with a proper seat at the table and the autonomy to make change,” he said.
“From the majority of Swan Councillors who ignored our concerns and even questioned our motives, to an approval process that has no right of appeal, it has been a hard fight to be heard.
“We are glad that we can now look forward to starting a genuine discussion with Main Roads about how to better protect the Helena River Wetlands.”