Land Partnership boosts water supply, Aboriginal economic development and cultural access

2 July 2015

Land Partnership boosts water supply, Aboriginal economic development and cultural access

In a first for NSW, a Local Aboriginal Land Council will transfer land to a local government utility to improve water supply for the broader community, while retaining cultural access to the site.

Under an agreement signed today between the Forster Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) and MidCoast Water, 1600 hectares of land will be purchased from the Land Council to develop a new source of water supply for the surrounding communities.

The sale of the land will finance social and economic development opportunities for Aboriginal people who will also retain a perpetual right of cultural access to fish and gather food from the site.

The Forster LALC will also retain the site of a former nursery which is located within the area.

New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) Mid North Coast Councillor, Peter Smith, said the agreement showed how the Land Rights system was evolving to benefit Aboriginal people and the broader community.

"The Manning and Great Lakes communities had a need for an alternative water supply that the Forster Local Aboriginal Land Council was able to respond to," Cr Smith said.

"However, rather than just selling the land, the Land Council was able to negotiate a perpetual right of cultural access as part of the conditions of sale."

Cr Smith said that this enabled Forster Land Council members to secure the economic benefits of the sale, while retaining the cultural benefits of the original land claim.

"Aboriginal people have fished in the Wallamba River on this site for thousands of years and this place is also important for bush medicine.

"The conditions of the sale mean that these activities will not be affected by the transfer of the land and development of a new water supply for the broader community," Cr Smith said.

Cr Smith said he expected that these kinds of agreements to be more common as the New South Wales Land Rights system evolved.

Forster Local Aboriginal Land Council and MidCoast Water should be congratulated on reaching this agreement, which is likely to become a model for other parts of the state," Cr Smith said.

"This agreement shows how Land Rights can enable Aboriginal and broader community interests in land to co-exist. It also shows Aboriginal people that by effective negotiation we can retain the cultural benefits of land even after it is sold."

The land, located at Nabiac, was previously sand-mined Crown land and was returned to the Aboriginal community as part of successful Aboriginal land claims by the Forster Local Aboriginal Land Council in the 1990s.

The sale of the land will enable the development of the Nabiac Inland Dune Aquifer and water treatment plant which will provide the community with a diversity of water supply, additional capacity and lower pumping costs.

Media contact: Andrew Williams 0429 585 291