Construction of a new go-kart track atop a sacred Wiradjuri women’s site scheduled to begin March 8, on International Women’s Day has been halted while federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley considers a permanent protection order.

The Wiradyuri Traditional Owners Central West Aboriginal Corporation (WTOCWAC) have been fighting development of the go-kart track at Wahluu or Mount Panorama in Bathurst since 2016.

In 2019, the WTOCWAC lodged a protection application under the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Island Heritage Protection Act 1984 (ATSIHPA) on the basis of the importance of Wahluu to First Nations people.

Minister Ley made an emergency protection declaration on Friday, pausing construction on the track for 30 days after WTOCWAC lawyers sent letters to various state and federal ministers and Bathurst Regional Council pleading for protection of the culturally significant site.

In the letters, the Traditional Owners solicitors compared the protection of Wahluu to the well-publicised destruction of Juukan Gorge by Rio Tinto in May 2020 and urged the federal Environment Minister seize the opportunity to protect this site’s cultural heritage from destruction by the Bathurst Regional Council.

In a statement Minister Ley said, “having now received reports from the department, including those submissions received recently from Traditional Owners, I would like to meet with the parties involved.”

“I will travel to Bathurst next Friday before reviewing the issues further to determine whether a declaration with longer effect should be made under section 10 of the Act.”