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Project Sea Dragon: ILUA Seafarms Agreement

Posted: Tue, October 31, 2017

Gajerrong dancers welcome attendees to at the signing ceremony at Lake Kununurra.

Native title holders have authorised an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) for Stage 1 of Project Sea Dragon, which is planned eventually to deliver a massive prawn farm producing 100,000 tonnes of black tiger prawns a year on Legune Station in the far north-west of the Northern Territory.

The agreement was authorised at a meeting of the Djarradjarrany, Gurrbidjim and Wadanybang native title holders on the shore of Lake Kununurra on 30 August.

Stage 1 of Project Sea Dragon will include three farms, each holding 40 ponds and covering a total of 1120 hectares; a seawater channel and pump at Forsyth Creek and a freshwater channel from an existing dam on the station; a main discharge channel into Alligator Creek; and buildings, including accommodation, office, workshops, a power station and a water treatment plant.

Ultimately, Seafarms wants to build about 10,000 hectares of ponds. The ILUA will allow all stages of the project to proceed.

The Northern Land Council had carriage of the complex and exhaustive consultations with the native title holders and other parties.

NLC CEO Joe Morrison congratulated the native title holders for the cooperative way they participated in consultations.

“They have had to make difficult choices and tough decisions before arriving here today,” he said.

“And I want to congratulate also the proponent, Seafarms, for their role in reaching the Indigenous Land Use Agreement. Seafarms has been a good corporate citizen and the NLC will be happy to continue working with them as this huge project develops.

“The NLC’s role has been to bring the parties together, and we will continue to encourage everyone to keep working together in good faith, Mr Morrison said.

The ILUA includes a compensation package, which Mr Morrison described as “generous” for native title holders giving up their native title rights for 95 years.

“The agreement will deliver long-term benefits to Traditional Owners and other Aboriginal people,” he said.

“I’m also happy to record that the agreement contains rigorous provisions to protect sacred sites.

“The NLC has worked hard to maximise employment opportunities in the agreement, and I especially welcome the proposal to establish a Ranger group, which the NLC will host. The Seafarms project will be a huge development and it’ll bring immense economic benefits to this region.

“Above all, today’s agreement represents a willingness by Aboriginal people to embrace development in northern Australia, even though they’ve had to surrender their native title for 95 years,” Mr Morrison said.

Chris Mitchell, managing director of Seafarms, thanked elders and custodians “who so carefully thought about Project Sea Dragon and spent time carefully thinking about their responsibilities.”

“We highly value that Seafarms and TOs have started to learn how work together in good spirit to get things done. We need to continue this with you all because it is critical for us to make a success of operation Sea Dragon.

“Because of the kind of project this is, if we work together and are successful at managing and working on this project, not only will our generation benefit but it also means that generations that follow us be working together into the future and will benefit from the business we build,” Mr Mitchell said.

The ILUA approval was also recognised by West Australian Senator Pat Dodson, show assistant minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Affairs, and the Member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, who’s also shadow minister for northern Australia.

They said the project “has the potential to transform the Ord region of northern Australia.”

“The support of native title holders is the foundation on which a successful project can be established and is a sign of what can be achieved when the parties negotiate in good faith.” Senator Dodson said.

“This project provides benefits and support for native title holders to manage country while developing major economic activity in the region, providing jobs, training and importantly protection of sites and the environment.” Mr Snowdon said.

This article appeared in Land Rights News October 2017 Edition. Download here.