Barton Highway duplication: NSW Transport’s decision to protect culturally important trees welcomed | The Canberra Times

news, environment, Barton Highway, ACT, NSW, Infrastructure, NSW Government, Barton Highway upgrade

A Ngunnawal elder has welcomed the NSW government’s decision to protect a group of culturally significant trees near the Kaveneys Road intersection of the $200 million Barton Highway upgrade project. NSW Transport made a commitment in a recent update to protect the trees, which include a ring tree, a scar tree and a circle of trees known as a ghost circle. It comes after lengthy pleas by Indigenous leaders, including the Onerwal Aboriginal Land Council and several environmental agencies, to redesign certain parts of the duplication, including near the ACT-NSW border. Wally Bell, an elder of Ngunnawal and one of the advocates, said it was “a surprise” that Transport NSW came to that commitment, but said he appreciated it. “It’s not our intention to stop duplication,” Bell said. “All we’re trying to do is protect our culture, knowledge and practices so they can be passed on to future generations.” Bell said negotiations between the authorities and several local groups have shown that solutions can be reached “if people are willing to sit down and talk about things rather than being stubborn about them”. “There is room for compromise and that’s where understanding comes into play,” he said. “Many people still don’t understand the Aboriginal heritage and diversity of Aboriginal cultures across the country.” Prior to the commitment, Transport NSW has paused work on that section to further consult with relevant stakeholders. Mr. Bell also thanked other groups, including Yass Area Network and Ginninderra Catchment Group, for their involvement and advocacy. In mid-2021, they warned Aboriginal Cultural Trees, home to vulnerable squirrel gliders just over the ACT border, could be severely damaged or killed if that section of the highway was not stepped down. The current doubling of phase one from the ACT boundary to Murrumbateman means that the existing roadway next to the trees would be southbound, while the new northbound lanes would be built on the other side of the trees, putting them in the middle of both lanes would remain. A “proposed community option” was to build the doubling in the space between the trees and the existing highway, which would require only a small amount of cleanup and preserve the ACT’s road geometry. Discussions on this part were ongoing. MORE NEWS NSW Transport’s community executive director Anthony Hayes said the group of trees on Kaveneys Road “would have been infected by work to duplicate the highway”. “Transport for NSW recognizes the importance of the trees of interest to the community and is committed to protecting the group of trees,” said Mr Hayes. “We are now looking at alternative options for this section of the Barton Highway upgrade. “While alternatives are being considered, work will continue from the ACT/NSW border to the north of Briarwood Lane. “More than 65,000 cubic meters of earthwork – the equivalent of 130,000 trailer loads – has been completed and crews will be back to work from January 10.” Work to duplicate the highway to improve safety and travel times for local commuters, tourists and freight carriers began in 2020. The Australian and NSW governments have pledged $150 million and $50 million respectively for the upgrade of the highway. Our journalists work hard to provide local, current news to the community. Here’s how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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