Regina Mckenzie wants Hawker to thrive with ecotourism, not nuclear waste

CONCERN: Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie at a protest in October 2016. PHOTO: Conservation SA.
CONCERN: Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie at a protest in October 2016. PHOTO: Conservation SA.

Regina McKenzie says the federal government’s proposed nuclear waste storage facility at Barndioota has caused her great angst and is causing in-fighting between her family members.

Regina, an Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner and neighbour to the proposed site, also said the federal government should be insisting on developing other economic ventures in the area.

 “It’s tearing my community apart, it;s tearing my people apart and tearing my family apart as well,” she said.

“I thought I’d never see the day when I see some people in particular cry in public, but they have, because they don’t want it.”

The proposed site,160 kilometres north of Port Augusta, will store low-level and some intermediate-level nuclear waste.

The low level purpose-built repository would be about the size of four Olympic size swimming pools with a 100 hectare buffer on the 25,000 hectare property.

Designs have not been prepared for the national repository but it will be modelled on above-ground storage and disposal facilities overseas.

Regina recalled the day in November 2015 when Barndioota was nominated as one of six sites for a federal government nuclear waste storage facility.

She said it was ‘shocking’ after working in partnership with the owner of the nominated site to help service and fight erosion in the Punga Pudinah water system.

The system travels more than 70 kilometres from Hawker to Lake Torrens, is an important piece of local Aboriginal history, and is at least 85,000 years old, according to Regina.

“This was one of the first registered song lines in Australia … and it’s going to be robbed from me and my people,” she said

“These are stories that we want to pass down onto our sons and daughters.”

After almost fainting during a French nuclear delegation visit to Hawker on February 9 where the maximum temperature recorded was 45, she said the future of the land of the proposed facility is starting step-by-step to develop eco-tourism.

“Here in the Flinders Ranges with the culture and ecotourism, why can’t thje government put funding in for places like Hawker in regional areas where they can see potential of ecotourism?” she asked.

“But no, all they do is push the waste dump ...  and they will try everything and anything.”

A Spokesperson for the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science said the reason the facility is being considered at Barndioota is because that is what ‘most people in the area told the government that they want’, and more consultation is therefore underway.

“The government has said we will deliver a National Radioactive Waste Management Facility in a centralised, purpose-built repository. The Government has not formed a view that it should be located in Barndioota,” the spokesperson said.

“The landowner voluntarily nominated their land, and 65 per cent of the people in the local area and 90 per cent of business owners in Hawker and Quorn said they want it considered.

“We know that some members of the Adnyamathanha can see benefits for the community from the facility and others don’t, and some members of the community want it, and others don’t, and a conversation is therefore underway.”

The Spokesperson said the department continues to work with the Adnyamathanha community to progress the heritage assessment.

“In addition, an Independent Heritage Assessment is being undertaken to understand and address any heritage concerns, and detailed technical studies will determine the suitability of the land,” the spokesperson said.