Lake Mullocullup party over before it begins

Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
Diane Evers MLC is warning of the potential cultural and environmental impacts of waterskiing at Lake Mullocullup.
Camera IconDiane Evers MLC is warning of the potential cultural and environmental impacts of waterskiing at Lake Mullocullup.

A party planned to celebrate powerboats being allowed at Lake Mullocullup, east of Albany, was cancelled last Friday after a surprise legal reversal.

The reversal, believed to be based on uncertainties surrounding permitting motorboats on the lake and the Aboriginal Heritage Act, will expire tomorrow but it prompted renewed opposition from Greens MP Diane Evers.

Ms Evers, a main opponent to gazetting Lake Mullocullup for powerboat use, said the delay was an opportunity to review the original decision.

She said new signs at the lake, which she believes will be necessary, could pose an issue.

She also warned of the boats’ potential environmental impact.

“It was a registered Aboriginal heritage site, it was a birthing place on the track from Esperance to Albany,” she said.

“There will be an impact on the lake by having boats on it, as well as noise and the disruption to wildlife.”

The debate over allowing motorised boats on the freshwater lake has been ongoing since at least 2015, with local indigenous groups demanding its protection as a heritage site and farmers arguing its important role as a community hangout.

Noongar elders Aden Eades and Carol Pettersen.
Camera IconNoongar elders Aden Eades and Carol Pettersen. Credit: Laurie Benson

In October last year, Albany council voted 9-3 in support of notifying the Department of Transport to proceed with gazettal — a move which would officially permit boat use on the water.

Farmers claim to have used motor boats on Lake Mullocullup — or Warriup Swampto Noongar people — for decades, but protesters warned increased visitation threatened wildlife and plants.

Frequent visitors include farmer Chris Metcalfe, who said in October the lake had been a communal spot for isolated families for years.

Mr Metcalfe warned banning waterskiing would take away a major social activity for the region.

“We use the lake as a social outlet at a time when mental health in rural communities is more important than ever,” he said.

“We spend an afternoon there, respect the place and one day hope to pass it on to our kids to use as we do.”

However, in mid-2018 Aboriginal elder Carol Pettersen, who claimed her mother was born at the lake, said motorised boats could affect the environment and were disrespectful to a cultural site.

“It is a place of significance for us Noongar people in terms of sacredness and spirituality,” she said.

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