Shire faces charges over Aboriginal Heritage Act (February 2024 edition)

Shire in hot water over creek crossings

by Sean Hefferon

LAST month the Shire of Toodyay received two notices of prosecution from the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage acting on a complaint and after a subsequent investigation alleging breaches of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972.

A week after receiving the notices, a Special Council Meeting approved expenditure of up to $15,000 to obtain legal advice and representation.

The shire faces a fine of $50,000 if the allegations are proven.

These allegations relate to shire works undertaken in early 2023 to repair crossings on Toodyay Brook at Picnic Hill and Glendearg Road, as well as the Boyagerring Brook crossing near the Toodyay District High School.

Tony Maddox at the Boyagerring Brook crossing near the Toodyay District High School

In April 2023 the Herald reported on local real estate agent, Tony Maddox being charged under WA’s Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 for building a culvert and a crossing over a winter creek on his property to allow access to his home.

When Mr Maddox’s charges became public, the Shire of Toodyay was unable to confirm if the same law applied to the same creek, Boyagerring Brook, as it had upgraded a similar crossing near the Toodyay District High School.

At the time Toodyay Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst said that the shire would act to seek advice from the State Government.

The CEO has since said that advice was sought and made no further comment due to the current prosecution.

The shire awaits legal advice on the current matter, hence the CEO and Shire President, Mick McKeown were unable to confirm what due diligence was done prior to the shire works to ensure compliance with the Act.

Whether or not the shire will plead guilty or fight the charges awaits legal advice.