Natural and cultural heritage has differential value; what is priceless and irreplaceable to some is disposable to others. This differentiation is cause for many conflicts and manifests anywhere from highly localised disputes to the very core of sovereign sensitivity.
In an ABC News article Vandal attack on treasured cave, heavy cutting equipment was allegedly used to break into the Kubla Khan cave, regarded as one of Australia’s most pristine underground formations. Within the cave is a huge chamber called Xanadu, containing an 18m high stalagmite known as the Khan. The cave is not open to the general public and permits are restricted to only 12 tour groups each year.
Exclusivity of access to public reserves is contentious. The relationship between the permit-issuing authority and the permit holder is exclusionary to fair trade. Inhabitants local to the area may well perceive their exclusion from their cultural heritage as usurpatory, especially if permit-holders derive income privilege from restricted entry.
When I read the article I was reminded of the seemingly senseless destruction of the Dig Tree, made famous through the ill-fated 1860 Burke & Wills expedition. I must confess that when I heard of this incident of alleged vandalism, Innaminka sprang to mind and the beauty of the approach through the Strezlecki Desert. Nevertheless, there are those amongst us, thankfully small in number, who deliberately damage or destroy heritage as an expression of will.
I have previously written about the Disposal of Our Heritage, but much of my concern reflects the likelihood of collateral damage inflicted against the state and its Parks and Wildlife Service in particular.
It is very frustrating that the environmental mandates and functions of government land management agencies are not considered business activites, as they are relieved of the need to conform with competitive neutrality and fair trade. A national overhaul of environmental compliance is urgently required to protect our heritage from these aggravating practices. Our greatest defense, in the meantime, is the residential vigilance of local people and the importance of protecting that which sustains them, now and hopefully into the future.