Protesters chained to the gates of the RMS site compound on Thompson Square at Windsor were cut free by Police Rescue officers on Monday morning.
Supported by about 20 other protesters, they were there as they had just found out the RMS intended to remove a blue spruce and a Chinese elm tree on the site, and disturb Aboriginal artefacts located in the ancient sand dune under the soil.
While the RMS supervisor said he couldn’t talk to the Gazette, the protesters said they had been told the morning’s planned digs by the RMS were part of archaeology works.
Protester Jenny Lloyd said the works should not be done at all. “The archaeological report on this site said the site is so important this work should not go ahead,” she said. “That part of the report has since been removed.”
Hawkesbury Councillor Danielle Wheeler was there and said she had just attended a towns and cities conference. “It said two things kill towns – traffic, and destruction of heritage,” she said. “In a government with a $5 billion surplus, we are getting something that will destroy Windsor. Bega and Berry are getting bypasses.”
Protester Nina Butler described the bridge plan as “a deal for trucking companies, mining companies and developers”.
The only person in a suit at the protest, the Greens party’s David Shoebridge said the protest was “the community’s opposition to the destruction of their heritage”.
“What they’re doing is nothing short of desecration,” he said. “The police have been polite and professional but it’s unfortunate the government is setting the police against such public-minded citizens.”
Hawkesbury Wobblers, Councillor John Ross and Kim Smith, had put the call out on their Facebook page for more protesters to come and chain themselves to the fence as a delaying tactic.
Under the blossoming jacarandas down near the river, the RMS were in a huddle with local Darug woman Erin Wilkins and Wiradjuri woman Vicki Thom to clarify protocol and work descriptions regarding Aboriginal artefacts found. After the talk Ms Wilkins told the protesters “from our perspective it’s all under protocol. It’s up to you if you stay”.
After their consultation the Darug representatives went to the protesters at the gate and said “from our perspective it’s all under protocol. It’s up to you if you stay”. The Darug women explained once the pylons went in, the rest of the site would be protected from desecration, and they were satisfied with that.
The police issued three warnings to the protesters blocking the compound entrances. The first and second warnings had long periods of more than half an hour between. The Gazette was present as the second warning was given.
“Again I would offer our assistance to remove the locks from your person if you do not have the ability to do it yourself,” Inspector Stuart Davis said.
“If you need medical assistance we are in a position to do that as well.” He said if they didn’t remove the locks, there was “the possibility of being injured by heavy machinery and vehicles”.
The third warning came around 10.20am, and after 15 minutes Police Rescue officers in white overalls went in and cut the chains of the protesters.
The RMS said on Monday afternoon that the work proposed was part of its archaeological investigation program. “Salvage work is being carried out to minimise the potential impact on heritage sites within the Windsor Bridge replacement project area,” the spokesperson said.
“The salvage work involves excavating the north-eastern part of Thompson Square to document and recover any heritage artefacts which may be within the area. Maritime investigations and minor salvage work is also being carried out at the old wharf next to the Hawkesbury River.
“To allow for the Aboriginal sand body heritage salvage to be completed, two trees and a branch on an adjoining tree will be removed. All trees will be replaced in line with the urban design and landscape strategy. All artefacts found will be catalogued and analysed by archaeologists.
“Work is being carried out in close consultation with relevant stakeholders, including Aboriginal groups.
“The community will be kept informed as the project progresses.”