Land Council given no notice of Bill to extinguish claims

Land Council given no notice of Bill to extinguish claims

Land Council given no notice of Bill to extinguish claims

24 October 2014

The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) was not given notice about legislation introduced into Parliament this week that aims to retrospectively extinguish hundreds of Aboriginal land claims, some dating back as far as two decades.

NSWALC Chairperson, Cr Craig Cromelin revealed that no attempt had been made by the Government to consult with the Land Council over the Bill introduced by Crown Lands Minister, Kevin Humphries late on Tuesday afternoon.

Cr Cromelin said the legislation was punitive and unnecessary. The intent of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act is to compensate Aboriginal peoples for dispossession. This Bill significantly undermines this intent.

The Crown Lands Amendment (Public Ownership of Beaches and Coastal Lands) Bill followed a recent Land and Environment Court ruling that granted an Aboriginal claim over an area of land known as 'Red Rock', near Coffs Harbour. Orders made in the Red Rock case resulted in land that included a significant stretch of beach and foredune being transferred to an Aboriginal Land Council, subject to easements for public access.

In his second reading speech introducing the Bill, Minister Humphries said the legislation was necessary to "ensure certainty and consistency in beach access and environmental management."

However, Minister Humphries neglected to inform Parliament that the Red Rock land was only returned to Aboriginal people subject to public access in perpetuity.

"I think the lack of consultation and the misleading nature of Minister Humphries' speech was deliberate." Cr Cromelin said.  "There is not a single example in NSW of an Aboriginal land claim preventing public access to a beach and Minister Humphries knows that."

Cr Cromelin said that NSWALC had told the NSW Government that it is always keen to discuss mechanisms to address any concerns the Government may have had as a result of rulings like the one on Red Rock.

"Yet, no attempt has been made to consult with the people most affected by this legislation," he said.

Cr Cromelin said that he feared the Minister was attempting to start a divisive debate about land rights ahead of the Government's proposed Crown Lands Amendment legislation.

"In light of the Minister's conduct, NSWALC seeks a commitment from the Premier that his government's Crown Lands legislation will not prevent or reduce unused Crown land that is available for claim under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act," he said.

Cr Cromelin also urged all parties to oppose the Crown Lands Amendment Bill when it returns to the Parliament, currently scheduled for 4 November.

________________________________________________________________________

Media contact: Gary Highland on 0418 476 940