Nambucca Shire Council together with the shire’s three Aboriginal Land Councils (Nambucca Heads, Bowraville and Unkya) and the Wanggaan Southern Aboriginal Corporation (Native Title Prescribed Body Corporate) has lodged an Expression of Interest (EOI) to join the NSW Government's new Land Negotiation Program.
The program assesses the most appropriate ownership or management of Crown land and puts it into the hands of the landholder who will best ensure “the people of NSW can gain positive social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits”.
The Council’s General Manager Michael Coulter said Native Title Claims took decades to resolve and in the interim uncertainty, the land sat idle not benefiting anyone.
“These reforms could see land handed to the council or land council to decide what is done with it … as it is now, the council is the trustee and the red tape involved with doing anything means it all takes a long time,” Mr Coulter said.
“If our expression of interest is accepted, then we can move forward and hopefully resolve some of the long out-standing land claims.”
Mr Coulter said an example was an Aboriginal Land Claim that came before the council at its August 31 meeting.
“We received advice from the Aboriginal Land Claim Investigation Unit of the Department of Industry- Lands relating to two claims to the same parcel of land. The claims were lodged 16 years apart and there is no explanation why these two competing claims are being considered for the same land.
“The council has no interest in the 1.5 hectares and resolved not to be a party to the claim ... we have no objection to an Aboriginal Land Claim proceeding.
“Under the new program management of this land could then pass to the Local Aboriginal Land Council to negotiate directly with adjoining landowners for a possible sale … money would then flow to the Land Council and they could use it for other projects.”
The emotional toll of completing native land claims cannot be underestimated for those involved.
In 2014 the Gumbaynggirr people gained native title over the Gumma-Warrell Creek area, known as Gaagal Wanggaan (South Beach) National Park – that process took 17 years.
How the program works:
Voluntary negotiations will be held between the NSW Government, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs), and local government councils to consider Crown land in a given area (e.g. local government areas or LALCs) and explore which party may be best placed to own that land in recognition of each party’s interests in the land.
Program benefits include:
* Local ownership of Crown land to advantage local communities reduced red tape and the regulatory burden on local government.
* More efficient and streamlined land management.
* Recognition of the importance of land to Aboriginal people and to support sustainable spiritual, cultural, environmental and economic benefits for Aboriginal people.