CROWN LANDS AMENDMENT (MULTIPLE LAND USE) BILL 2013 passes in the Legislative Council with amendments 

November 27th, 2013

On Tuesday evening (19 November) the Upper House of the NSW Parliament passed the Crown lands Amendment (Multiple Land Use) Bill 2013 with some amendments.

The Council of NSWALC adopted the following position on the Bill:

  • That the protection of Aboriginal land claims provided by the Bill should extend to the date of assent; 
  • That there must be safeguards to make sure that invalid licences that cause material harm to Crown Reserves are not validated; 
  • That the proposed ways of issuing and then subsequently correcting and validating new tenures over Crown land (the material harm test which is the subjective test conducted by the Minister and the ability to retrospectively correct and validate licences) are opposed; 
  • That the requirement to give the Minister six (6) months notice before challenging the validity of any tenure in Court is opposed. 

The following amendments were made to the Bill in the Upper House on the 19 November: 

  • As well as holding the opinion that the use or occupation arising from a secondary interest (lease/ licence) in Crown land would not be likely to materially harm the Crown land's reserve purpose, the Minister must also be satisfied that the grant of the lease/licence is in the 'the public interest'; 
  • Additional guidance for the Minister (through the insertion of a list of 'relevant considerations') in determining whether a lease/licence causes material harm to a Crown reserve; 
  • The ability to make of regulations for further 'relevant considerations' to provide guidance and clarity around the Minister's assessment of material harm; 
  • The requirement that notice is given to the Minister prior to legal challenge of a secondary interests will now be 3 months instead of the originally proposed 6 months. 

NSWALC welcomes these amendments but is particularly disappointed that the Government did not agree to extend the Bill's protection of Aboriginal land claims beyond 9 November 2012, to the date of the Bill's assent. We have urged the Government to respect the rule of law and the rights of Aboriginal Land Councils to legitimately make land claims in accordance with the law as it stood when claims were lodged. 

Importantly, the Bill only affects Goomallee type land claims - that is, land claims where tenures (leases/licences) have been invalidly issued over reserved Crown land. Aboriginal Land Councils still have the right to make land claims and bring appeals under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983. For more information about the implications of the Bill, see the Crown Land Amendment fact sheet

The Bill has highlighted concerns about this Government's approach to the management of Crown lands. NSWALC calls on the Government to make public any documents and reports relating to the Comprehensive Review of NSW Crown Land Management and to ensure that all future processes in relation to the review are undertaken in a transparent manner that fosters community participation. 

I acknowledge the hard work and effort of those involved that has allowed NSWALC and the Network to advocate for Land Rights in this process. 

Please contact the Legal Services Unit on (02) 9689 4444 if you would like to discuss the Bill, or any issues relating to the Bill, further. 

Craig Cromelin 

NSWALC Chairman