Yourambulla Caves

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:51 :43 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation questions about the Yourambulla Caves.

Leave granted.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I am sure the minister would be familiar with the Yourambulla Caves. They are located 11 kilometres south of Hawker off the main Quorn road and contain Aboriginal paintings which are possibly thousands of years old. Since 1952 they have been of major tourism interest to the visitors to Hawker and it is not uncommon to see cars, campervans and buses in the car park. The cave site is on the property of a local called Trevor Jarvis.

In 2012 the manager of the Aboriginal Heritage Branch wrote to him, explaining that due to damage—and I point out that the damage, which I have seen and have a photograph of on my iPhone, is a piece of decking about 50 centimetres long and 75 millimetres wide which requires four nails to fix it—the site was unsafe for tourists and that any liability for injury of a visitor would fall on him, the landowner. They suggested that he restrict access, providing signage to that effect, fix the damage and produce a long-term management plan.

In December 2012 the property owner placed closed signs on the entrance but they were apparently removed by someone. In December 2013 the manager of Aboriginal heritage in the DPC wrote a similar letter suggesting that the property owner seek legal advice as to his liability. In December the property owners of the cave site and the access road padlocked the entrance gate and restricted access. I visited that site and the public are still ignoring it and jumping the fence and still walking up to the caves and climbing up on the structure to view the paintings.

I should also mention about all of this being demanded of the owner of the land. He is in his mid-70s and I am unsure of his physical and financial capacity to handle the repairs and ongoing maintenance and liability insurance for the caves. My questions to the minister are:

1.Were the steps and decking in place at the Yourambulla Caves, which are now damaged, funded by grants from the Tourism or state Aboriginal Affairs departments via the Flinders Ranges Council?

2.For a period of time, was maintenance of the access road and car park for the caves funded by the Tourism Commission via the Flinders Ranges Council?

3.If indeed the state funded those aspects, is it implicit that the state government has some economic interest in the ongoing tourism operation of the caves?

4.Does the state government fund public liability insurance for the Heysen Trail and a bike trail which go through private properties nearby or adjacent to the cave site?

5.If that is so, and given that Yourambulla Caves provide a similar tourism economic benefit to the state, has it been considered that Yourambulla Caves should be insured at the state government's expense?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) ( 14:54 :58 ): My understanding is that the local council (Flinders Ranges Council) and local stakeholders have been raising this issue with the government for a little time now. My understanding is the degradation of the site has been continuing for many, many years. There is a ladder that is used for access, I understand, and a boardwalk, which are in a dilapidated condition. Whilst, in the short term, the condition of those fixtures could be addressed, it does not address the long-term way forward for sustainable use of such a tourism site and its protection also from the unwanted attentions of tourists who are there without permission.

As to the economic benefit of the site and the tourism benefit the honourable member asked in his question, I am not sure where he gets that information from. To the best of my knowledge, I have not seen any modelling that talks about that. He may have access to some certain information about the tourism and economic benefits but, of course, he has not provided that to me. At this point in time, I am instructed by my department that the best way forward is for them to talk to the stakeholders and the Flinders Ranges Council and, indeed, that is what they are doing.

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