PLANS for a major residential lot subdivision on the North Lismore Plateau could be delayed yet again over claims of an Aboriginal stone wall on the site which one expert says could be thousands of years old.
PLANS for a major residential lot subdivision on the North Lismore Plateau could be delayed yet again over claims of an Aboriginal stone wall on the site which one expert says could be thousands of years old. Marc Stapelberg

Vote in our poll: Should this 'ancient' rock wall be saved?

UPDATE, Thursday, 8am: DO YOU think this stone wall should be protected by the developers of the North Lismore Plateau?

A group of archaeologists believe the wall and several others on the plateau could be of Aboriginal heritage and thousands of years old, and they want it to "never be touched".

But one of the developers says the original assessment was that the dry stone wall was European in nature.

What do you think?

Should developers protect this 'ancient' stone wall?

This poll ended on 18 November 2016.

Current Results

Yes

43%

No

56%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

 

UPDATE, Wednesday, 4.20pm: IT'S the nondescript row of mossy boulders which could stop a $90 million development in its tracks.

This dry stone rock wall is one of several on the North Lismore Plateau identified by a group of Sydney archaeologists as of Aboriginal heritage, with plans afoot to register the find under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act to ensure it can "never be touched".

Today The Northern Star visited the plateau to inspect the wall first hand.

PLANS for a major residential lot subdivision on the North Lismore Plateau could be delayed yet again over claims of an Aboriginal stone wall on the site which one expert says could be thousands of years old.
PLANS for a major residential lot subdivision on the North Lismore Plateau could be delayed yet again over claims of an Aboriginal stone wall on the site which one expert says could be thousands of years old. Marc Stapelberg

Jim Punch, the development manager for Winten Property Group, said it was one of about six sections of dry stone rock wall in the area.

It's the only section on Winten's land. There is another, longer wall on Lismore City Council land earmarked for subdivision, and it's understood there are other sections of wall on land owned by another developer, The Plateau Group.

But Mr Punch said the original archaeologists conducting reports had identified the walls as European in nature.

PLANS for a major residential lot subdivision on the North Lismore Plateau could be delayed yet again over claims of an Aboriginal stone wall on the site which one expert says could be thousands of years old.
PLANS for a major residential lot subdivision on the North Lismore Plateau could be delayed yet again over claims of an Aboriginal stone wall on the site which one expert says could be thousands of years old. Marc Stapelberg

He said Winten had worked with two archaeological consultants in preparing the land for rezoning by Lismore City Council.

Under its responsibilities to preserve heritage areas of Aboriginal importance Winten has also preserved a large fig tree on the summit of a rise which gives uninterrupted views to the east. 

They have also preserved a second area where a sample pit dug by archaeologists identified traces of what might have been Aboriginal stone tools. 

ORIGINAL STORY: PLANS for a major residential lot subdivision on the North Lismore Plateau could be delayed yet again over claims of an Aboriginal stone wall on the site which one expert says could be thousands of years old.

The revelations come only two months after Lismore City Council declared the plateau's rezoning was "secured" following a dropped legal challenge in the NSW Land and Environment Court by Aboriginal elder Mickey Ryan - the second in two years.

MORE: The long history of the North Lismore Plateau Development

But following the inspection of the wall by two Aboriginal heritage experts on Mr Ryan's request, the development's future has again been thrown into doubt.

Jakub Czastka, chief archaeologist with Sydney-based heritage consultancy, Tocomwall Pty Ltd, said he had "absolutely no doubt" the mysterious wall was of Aboriginal construction.

He said the extensive growth of lichen on the wall clearly put it as much older than European settlement, and suggested it could have had a ritual purpose.

"This feature needs to be mapped properly and it needs to be protected," he said.

Mr Czastka has been called as an expert witness in several court cases relating to the protection of Aboriginal heritage sites, including on behalf of the local Githabul people.

What happens next

Tocomwall is in the process of registering the site with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, under its Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System.

Once that happens, any development which impacts the site would be breach of the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

Tocomwall director Scott Franks in addition to registering the site Tocomwall was planning to file an emergency protection order with the Federal Environment Minister, followed by a Section 10 application under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 to ensure the site could "never be touched".

Mr Franks inspected the site in September and is returning on November 26.

He said Lismore City Council to "get real" about how significant the site was.

Mickey Ryan has also threatened to lodge an injunction on the development.

Major setback?

If proven to be genuine, the discovery could come as a major setback for plans for a 1500-lot development on the plateau in the pipeline now for several years.

But one of the developers of the site has played down the impact of the wall on its plans.

Winten Property Group development manager Jim Punch said he was hopeful the group's DA would be lodged before Christmas.

The Sydney-based developer is finalising a 440-lot development application for the site and is one of two developers looking to meet demand for new residential housing within a short distance of the Lismore CBD.

He said Winten had been proactive about its Aboriginal heritage responsibilities from day one, with at least three Aboriginal heritage sites identified and made off limits to development.

Mr Punch said the rock walls on the site were originally assessed by two archeologists and identified as being of European heritage.

"We've followed all the protocols that the (NSW Office of Environment and Heritage) required, we've done all that we need, and I think more," Mr Punch said.

"We've said all the way along we will work to preserve heritage items of value... we've gone out of our way to do that.

"We're trying to do the right thing, but until we know about it we can't do anything."

He also warned that once work began on the project, opponents launching legal battles could be held responsible for costs.

No development at all

But Mickey Ryan, who has fought an almost one-man battle against the rezoning of the site, vowed to fight the development "all the way".

"It's about culture, heritage, and history. Once it's gone, it's gone. And that's out last place, it's the North Lismore mob's last place."

"I just want the council to listen to me."

Asked if he was open to any compromise, Mr Ryan said he wanted more land "than just a quarry".

Council waiting on DA

Lismore City Council general manager Gary Murphy said any outstanding cultural heritage issues would dealt with once a development application was lodged for the site.

"Council has not been presented with any archaeological reports for the North Lismore Plateau other than the extensive independent archaeological and heritage reports that were completed as part of the rezoning process," Mr Murphy said.

"We have every confidence in the archaeological and heritage reports we have received to date."



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