NLC cautiously welcomes Committee’s report into Pastoral Land Bill

Date: Mar 16, 2018

Publication Type: Press Releases

Subject: Native Title

The Northern Land Council has cautiously welcomed the report of the NT Parliament’s Economic Policy Scrutiny Committee which examined the government’s Pastoral Land Legislation Amendment Bill.

The committee has recommended that the government consider options for better protecting the rights of native title holders, such as through a right to negotiate, when consideration is being given to granting permits for non-pastoral uses to leaseholders under the Pastoral Land Act.

The previous CLP government in 2013 passed legislation which allowed pastoralists to obtain long-lasting permits to allow for economic activity on pastoral leases, beyond grazing of cattle.  The Bill proposed by the present Labor government would go further, allowing leaseholders to obtain registerable sub-leases for non-pastoral activities.

The Northern and Central Land Councils have strenuously opposed the Bill, arguing that it would significantly erode the rights of native title holders and deny them a right to negotiate.

NLC CEO Joe Morrison said that if the government adopted the committee’s recommendation, native title holders would have a rightful place at the negotiating table when decisions were made about economic activity that affected their interests.

“If the Bill in its present form became law, native title holders would have only the right to be notified about non-pastoral activities,” Mr Morrison said.  “Native title holders would have no right to negotiate.”

“The Bill would effectively extinguish the rights of native title holders across a significant portion of the pastoral estate, and unfairly benefit the pastoral industry”.

“What everyone’s got to recognise here is that pastoralists don’t own the land on which they operate.  Aboriginal people have lived here for more than 60,000 years.  Pastoral land is leased by the Crown, and native title holders have rights which are, regrettably, already curtailed by law. “I can only hope that the government accepts the committee’s recommendation.  Otherwise, they’re in for one hell of a fight.

“The government introduced this Bill without consulting the Land Councils, and yet it’s proposing to negotiate a treaty with the Aboriginal peoples of the Northern Territory.  This has been a bad start to what will be a long journey towards a treaty, and the final form of this legislation will have a serious effect on how Aboriginal people view the bona fides of this Labor government,” Mr Morrison said.

The NLC has also welcomed two other recommendations of the committee:  that the Government consider options to enhance the protection of sacred sites on pastoral lands, and that it takes into account native title interests and Aboriginal cultural heritage and traditions when appointing members to the Pastoral Land Board.

NLC contact: Martha Tattersall 0427 031 382


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