THE construction of a Tamworth community playground has been halted after significant Aboriginal stone artefacts were discovered on the proposed site at Marsupial Park.
The Tamworth Adventure Playground was on track to be constructed by volunteers in mid-October when a Tamworth Local Aboriginal Land Council site manager discovered more than 60 stone artefacts at the playground’s location.
Archaeologists will examine the site to determine the precise number of artefacts and if they can be relocated, a process that could take between six and 12 months.
Tamworth Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO Harry Cutmore said the playground would be enjoyed by all children, including those in the Aboriginal community, and he did not intend to stop construction going ahead.
“It’s not about preventing it if we can work together,” Mr Cutmore said.
“It’s about preserving our sites and looking after our culture.”
Deputy mayor Russell Webb said he was “disappointed” about the delay and said the council had endeavoured to engage the Aboriginal community the “whole way through” the planning.
“This has come out of the blue,” Cr Webb said. “Where the artefacts were sighted, kids have been playing up there for many years.”
He said he hoped the artefacts could be collected and kept in safe custody so the playground could be constructed “as soon as possible”.
Tamworth Adventure Playground committee president Charles Impey said the process of examining the site for significant Aboriginal artefacts was not overlooked – the committee had the site surveyed 18 months ago but they were apparently advised by “someone who wasn’t qualified”.
Mr Impey was “100 per cent hopeful” the playground would still be built on the site and was aiming for construction to take place in March next year.
Although Mr Impey said the roadblock was “unfortunate” for the 600 committed volunteers, he said it was also a “blessing” to take more time to plan for some features of the park, including an accessible flying fox.
“We want to respect the process of course; we want to do everything right, and we’re happy to do that.”
Mr Cutmore said it was important to abide by the National Parks and Wildlife legislation and maintain Aboriginal history. He said the artefacts were likely from stone axes and tools and were distinct from items located at the botanical gardens, which meant they could belong to a different family group or timeframe, or nations could have gathered for corroboree and exchanged gifts.