Lake Macquarie Councillors have voted against a recission motion put forward by Councillor Kevin Baker demanding that Council withdraws its support for an application lodged by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council seeking further protection for the Butterfly Cave at West Wallsend.
Acting Mayor Wendy Harrison and Councillors Barney Langford and Brian Adamthwaite spoke out against the motion which was supported by only three Councillors.
The cave is believed to be in danger of collapse if construction of a residential housing estate planned to only allow a 20-metre buffer zone is allowed to go ahead.
The site - which was formally declared an Aboriginal Place in the same year approval was given to develop the housing estate - has also traditionally been used by Aboriginal women and girls, as a private meeting place for hundreds of years.
NSWALC lodged the application on behalf of the Awabakal Local Land Council asking the Minister for Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, to extend the 20-metre buffer zone to 100 metres claiming "the use of heavy machinery and construction tools is a source of vibration that may cause irreversible physical damage to Butterfly Cave" and "the removal of native vegetation and diversion of watercourses irrevocably affects the traditional use of the area."
In June Mayor Kay Fraser wrote to the Department of Environment and Energy extending her support for the application by the NSWALC, which Councillor Kevin Baker said is inappropriate.
"Council should not be lobbying for one side or the other on any position when we are actually a consent authority.
"What my recission motion sought to do was to still put a submission into the federal government authority that is running this investigation but, have that submission detail the process that has been taken in relation to the consent, how everything has progressed and also detail the steps that are being put in place to ensure that the Butterfly Cave is not going to be damaged through the construction process.
"Put through a factual response rather than lobbying for one side or the other," Cr Baker said.
Cr Baker said all politics aside he does support protecting the cave.
"My wife and children are Aboriginal and I am a strong believer in Aboriginal culture and heritage.
"I have long felt the Butterfly Cave needs to be protected and I think the council is doing a fantastic job through the construction management plan and the construction certificate process, in putting in some really detailed measures to make sure the Butterfly Cave is protected throughout the construction process.
"But, the council have guidelines under the law to follow and we feel it is important that those laws are upheld and that the correct process is followed," Cr Baker said.
|The specified area known as Butterfly Cave in West Wallsend.|