The leaders of a push to have the Victorian Goldfields listed on the World Heritage register have hit back at claims the formal classification would kill off mining and prospecting throughout the area.
The Prospectors and Miners Association of Victoria criticised the push, which is being driven by 13 regional shires, saying the heritage status would stop people from prospecting, hunting, four wheel driving, horse riding and camping.
Cr Meddows-Taylor said the heritage push would have no impact on prospectors and miners as it would centre around locations which are already in some way covered by a heritage overlay, meaning no new locations throughout the Goldfields would be declared off limits.
Places such as the Eureka Stockade Gardens in Ballarat and the Castlemaine Diggings, which are currently listed on the Australian National Heritage List, would likely be among the locations.
“It’s built structures and things that are on the heritage register (which will be protected), so the only impact on prospecting and mining is more pr for the region,” Cr Meddows-Taylor said.
The councils are currently lobbying state government for funding to secure two years of research at Federation University, which would be used to investigate the history of the Goldfields and potential sites for the serial listing.
However, long-term prospector Oz Walds says clauses in the state government’s amended Heritage Act 2017, to be enforced by November – which is separate to the heritage bid - suggest prospecting will be banned in much of Victoria, with anyone caught prospecting set to suffer harsh penalties.
“Ballarat should hang its head in shame for allowing this (to happen). We have a history of gold fields, of people coming from around the world to gold fields,” Mr Walds said.
“It’s an embarrassment that in a place famous for gold – people won’t be able to find gold. How ludicrous is that?”
Mr Walds believes clauses in the act will also impact other recreational user groups including horse riders and 4WD users.
Cr Samantha McIntosh will meet with propsectors including Mr Walds on Tuesday and hopes to ease their concerns.
“The information I have currently doesn't suggest (that prospecting will be banned),” Cr McIntosh said.
“It’s really nice to have prospecting, it’s really nice for us to share and forward on the skills of the recent gold mining history of the city. What we’re also looking at the how the regions fit together. The conversations in the past have been about connecting (regions).”