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S19 Land Use Agreements

Aboriginal land and sea country in north Australia is rich in biodiversity and natural resources, and has the potential to deliver economic opportunities and outcomes for Aboriginal people.

The number of micro-enterprise, private business, Government and community development activities occurring on Aboriginal land is increasing. The section 19 Land Use Agreement process gives Traditional Owners an opportunity to consider, develop terms and conditions and the right to consent to or reject proposals on their land.

Land Use Agreements are required for any commercial fishing operators wishing to access tidal waters over Aboriginal land except those areas where there is an existing agreement with the Northern Territory Government permitting commercial and recreational fishing. Agreements are also required for the two closed seas around the Crocodile Islands area and the Castlereagh Bay area in east Arnhem Land. Commercial operators include any person holding a licence issued by the Northern Territory Government under the Fisheries (Northern Territory) Act 1988 for any of the commercially harvested fisheries and for guided fishing tours.

NLC carries out consultations and negotiations on behalf of Traditional Owners with those interested in carrying out commercial activities on Aboriginal land and waters. NLC must ensure that any land use proposal is fair and equitable. Multi-disciplinary teams within the NLC, comprising of Land Use Project Coordinators, Regional Office staff, Lawyers, and Anthropologists, undertake a rigorous assessment of all land use proposals prior to going to consultation. NLC will also engage external experts to assist with the assessment of land use proposals as required.

Using this process, Traditional Owners are given the opportunity to make an informed decision in accordance with their traditional decision making processes. Affected Aboriginal people and communities are also given an opportunity to express their views in relation to land or water use proposals. Where informed consent is given, the NLC may direct the appropriate Aboriginal Land Trust to enter into a S19 Land Use Agreement with the proponent.

Please note:

  • The time frame for an assessment of a s19 Land Use Agreement expression of interest and the subsequent consultation with Traditional Owners can take a minimum of 6 months to progress if all information is provided in a timely manner. However, the time required to conduct consultations on s19 Land Use Agreements will vary depending on the type of interest and the region. The NLC makes no warranties as to the time taken to conduct those consultations pursuant to its statutory responsibilities under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act.
  • Third parties that seek an interest or a right to operate on Aboriginal land or waters are expected to bear reasonable costs associated with the delivery of NLC services associated with their expression of interest. NLC will attempt to share costs between proponents where appropriate and convenient.

To download a S19 Land Use Agreement Application click (MS Word).

To download a NLC Regional Map (PDF)

On 24 December 2016, the NLC issued a Public Notice, pursuant to section 5(8) of the Aboriginal Land Act that waives the requirement for a permit to enter tidal waters overlying Aboriginal land for a period of six months, until 30 June 2017.

Read the Information Sheet on Access to Tidal Waters on Aboriginal Land (PDF) published December 2016

View the Sea Country Access Arrangements in the NLC region map