The WA government is considering prosecuting a Chinese company over unauthorised land clearing at a pastoral station in the state's north as shocked traditional owners say important flora including boab trees have been ripped up.
Zenith Australia Investment Holding, a division of Shanghai CRED, was last month ordered to stop clearing vegetation at Yakka Munga Station in the West Kimberley after native title group Walalakoo Aboriginal Corporation complained.
"We are continuing to investigate the circumstances of the clearing and whether further enforcement and restoration measures are required," the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation said in a statement.
The department says about 120 hectares of land has been cleared without authorisation, but the company is appealing the stop work order.
"They're trying to argue a technical argument to open up the interpretation of what you can do on a pastoral lease," WAC chairman Wayne Bergmann told AAP.
"It is a massive issue for the whole state because it will create untold destruction if they're allowed to get away with this."
Mr Bergmann said the company had disregarded the binding terms of a land use agreement by undertaking major work without consulting native title holders.
He said they were shocked to find massive irrigation trenches had been dug up, causing significant damage to flora.
"The company has never communicated with us about what they were doing on the land," Mr Bergmann said.
"It's just basic decency and respect for them to have engaged with us."
He said the work had gone through two important songlines and archaeological material had been found in the area.
"Who knows what we've lost."
The department said it immediately investigated WAC's complaint but Mr Bergmann claims it took 10 days to issue the order.
"If a bulldozer turned up at Kings Park and started clearing native plants, surely it wouldn't take 10 days for the government to issue a stop work order."
Environs Kimberley director Martin Pritchard said 1500 people had signed a petition calling for Zenith Australia to be prosecuted and other conservation groups were joining the push.
The Wilderness Society called for "the strongest possible sanctions" and a re-vegetation order.
Shanghai CRED bought the pastoral lease in 2016 from oil producer and gas fracking hopeful Buru Energy, which used WAC's expertise for heritage and environmental surveys.
"We just assumed they were managing it the same as Buru Energy," Mr Bergmann said.
Australian Associated Press