Labor and the Greens have urged the Heritage Minister to stop approved works on a newly discovered convict site in the state’s north, as a nomination for heritage register listing is considered.
City of Launceston council general manager Michael Stretton said this week their advice suggested no further investigation was warranted and they held no legislative ability to modify planning permits already in place.
In question time on Thursday, Greens leader and heritage spokesperson Cassy O’Connor quizzed Will Hodgman about his department’s actions to date and if he would stop works to allow further investigation.
IN OTHER NEWS
“Your agency Heritage Tasmania is aware of the discovery and its significance, but has taken no action to date. Can you confirm that development works are continuing on the site and you have done nothing so far to stop it and protect our heritage?” Ms O’Connor asked.
“Will you order a stop-work to at least allow further investigation before allowing the bulldozers in to flatten an important part of Tasmania's convict story?”
Mr Hodgman didn’t answer directly, but said the site was not on any heritage lists and the initial dig found “limited” structural remains.
“It’s certainly an interesting discovery, as its existence was not recognised or well known until 2016,” Mr Hodgman said.
He noted gratitude for the involvement of the Launceston City council who “took the lead” on sponsoring the investigations.
“Now these investigations have been concluded, those involved have been able to confirm that there is limited evidence of the station that remains at the site. However, I am aware that a nomination has been received by the Heritage Council and is currently under consideration,” he added.
Labor’s heritage spokesperson Ella Haddad later told The Examiner the government should enforce a stop-work order until the heritage nomination is considered and significance is “formally” determined.
“This site has the potential to significantly add to the story of Tasmania’s unique convict history,” she said.
Constructed in 1837, the Kings Meadows Road Station is thought to have operated for a short period until the early 1840s to assist with the unsuccessful Evandale to Launceston Water Scheme and the construction of the Midlands Highway.
The City of Launceston council announced the discovery of the previously unknown site earlier this month after providing $10,000 to support an exploratory dig on the land approved for a residential subdivision in December of 2016.
The recent study was negotiated with landowner Darren Goodyer and Southern Archaeology after local historian and surveyor John Dent approached the council about conducting an archaeological investigation earlier in the year.
Structural remnants and other artefacts were found in the recent study, according to Southern Archaeology’s Darren Watton.
The Australasian Society of Historical Archaeology – the sector’s national peak body – last week said the site was “highly significant” on a state and “most likely national” level.
Based on their understanding of the site, ASHA president Anita Yousif said it would “satisfy most of the heritage/archaeological significance assessment criteria” and noted sites of this type were “rare”.
A former Tasmanian senator – and current chair of one of the state’s five UNESCO listed convict sites – has also backed calls for further investigation and the release of the report provided to the City of Launceston “as soon as possible”.
“It’s of limited value unless it’s made available to all people interested in the history of the state,” Mr Rae told The Examiner last week.
“It’s important for us as a state to do the best we can,” he said. “We need to be careful with [sites] that are both pre or post-white settlement and the stories they can tell.”
While you're with us, did you know that you can now sign up to receive breaking news updates and daily headlines direct to your inbox. Sign up here.