Case study 8: Maritime 1: Successful prosecution of Geraldton man for offences relating to Commonwealth historic shipwreck relics
The Dutch East Indiaman, Zuytdorp was wrecked off Western Australia in 1712. Three other old Dutch ships were also wrecked off the West Australian coast: Batavia (1629), Vergulde Draeck (more commonly known as the Gilt Dragon) (1656) and Zeewyk (1727). These four shipwrecks are covered under an Agreement between Australia and the Netherlands Concerning Old Dutch Shipwrecks signed on 6 November 1972. As with all shipwrecks older than 75 years and within jurisdictional waters, these four shipwrecks are protected under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 (Shipwrecks Act).
Anybody in possession of shipwreck relics in Western Australia when the Shipwrecks Act came into effect was required to register the objects. The Shipwrecks Act also declared a protected zone around the wreck to prevent looting of coins and relics. Under a nationwide amnesty people had from 1 May to 30 October 1993 to notify discovery and possession of relics that were not notified before 1 April 1993.
After an investigation by the department, 1 433 undeclared Dutch coins and seven furniture tacks from the Zuytdorp were found. Dominic William Lamera was convicted in the Geraldton Magistrates Court of dishonestly retaining Commonwealth property and was fined $3 000.
Zuytdorp coastline. (Patrick Baker, Western Australian Museum)