Crown Lands Amendments Bill 2014

Crown Lands Amendment Bill 2014

23 October 2014

On the 21 October 2014 the NSW Minister for Natural Resources, Lands and Water introduced the Crown Lands Amendment (Public Ownership of Beaches and Coastal Lands) Bill 2014 (the Bill) into the Legislative Assembly. The NSW Government has introduced this Bill without any consultation and appears to be seeking to rush this Bill through Parliament in this session.

The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) has identified a number of significant concerns with the Bill which NSWALC believes seriously undermines the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and limits the ability of Aboriginal Land Councils to make claims to certain Crown Lands.

NSWALC strongly encourages the Aboriginal Land Rights network to urgently raise concerns about the Bill with Parliamentarians (see below) 

Implications of the Bill
The Bill proposes to allow the NSW Government to classify broad areas of land as no longer claimable under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW) (ALRA). The Bill also proposes that all current and future Aboriginal land claims over an expanded category of Crown lands, that is, beach and coastal lands, must be refused.

The Red Rock case
This Bill is the NSW Government's response to a decision by the Land and Environment Court (LEC) that resulted in a Local Aboriginal Land Council successfully appealing a Minister's decision regarding an Aboriginal Land Claim. Orders made in the Red Rock case resulted in land that included a stretch of beach and foredune being transferred to an Aboriginal Land Council, subject to easements for public access.

NSWALC's key concerns
NSWALC's key concerns about the Bill include:

  1. The Bill undermines the objects and purpose of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW) and is an unjustified and reactive response to the Red Rock decision;
  2. The Bill proposes new and broad definitions of 'core beach land' and 'Crown beach and coastal land' and proposes new and expanded definitions of what lands associated with beach areas that will no longer be claimable;
  3. The Bill proposes to insert a new section that will stipulate that any existing land claims to the extent that they relate to Crown beach and coastal land must be refused. These provisions are retrospective - they will affect land claims that have been lodged but not yet determined;
  4. NSWALC contends that this Bill is discriminatory as it protects existing interests of other Crown land users, but not the existing interests of Aboriginal Land Councils in undetermined claims.
  5. Proposed section 64 of the Bill contains express provisions that compensation will not be payable as a result of this Bill, despite Aboriginal Land Rights being significantly undermined as a result of the Bill.
  6. There was no consultation with NSWALC prior to the introduction of the Bill and it appears that the Bill is being rushed through Parliament before Parliament closes for 2014.

NSWALC's position
NSWALC has considered the Bill and has adopted an initial position which outlines:

  • Overall, NSWALC strongly opposes this Bill and urges all political parties to oppose this Bill.
  • NSWALC strongly opposes any undermining of the objects and purpose of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
  • NSWALC does not support legislation that extinguishes land rights claims that have been lodged legitimately in accordance with the ALRA. NSWALC believes that these claims should be determined in accordance with the law as it stood when the claims were lodged.
  • Given that the existing exclusions to claimable Crown land are broad enough to exclude beaches and coastal land as defined, the resort to retrospective legislation is unnecessary and inappropriate and does not uphold the rule of law as well as best practice principles of Crown land management.
  • NSWALC contends that this Bill is discriminatory as it protects existing interests of other Crown land users, but not the existing interests of Aboriginal Land Councils in undetermined claims.
  • NSWALC is concerned regarding the Government's disregard for judicial process and Court decisions in pursuing such legislation.
  • Despite being extremely disappointed and concerned by the manner in which the NSW Government has approached this issue, NSWALC seeks further engagement with the NSW Government to develop a way forward.

The linked document provides further detail about the Bill, background to the Red Rock case, a summary of key concerns and NSWALC's position. 

NSWALC's response
NSWALC is urgently seeking meetings with the NSW Government to advise of NSWALC's serious concerns and opposition to the Bill. NSWALC is also providing briefings to Parliamentarians to seek support of NSWALC's position.

In addition, NSWALC is seeking information from the NSW Government regarding a list of Crown lands that will be affected by the new definition, and a list of land claims which will be affected by the new definition.

NSWALC understands that the Bill is likely to be debated on the 4 November 2014, and will keep the Network updated on the progress of the Bill.

NSWALC strongly encourages LALCs to take action to oppose the Bill by urgently contacting your Local Member of Parliament (MP) and Members of the Legislative Council (MLCs) to raise concerns about the Bill and encourage Members to oppose the Bill. Contact details for MPs and MLCs can be accessed on the NSW Parliament website at:
http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Prod/parlment/members.nsf/0/90842BBC8F05057ECA256BF1001D6243

A copy of the Bill and Second Reading Speech can be accessed on the NSW Parliament website at:  https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/nswbills.nsf/131a07fa4b8a041cca256e610012de17/8228b4fa835c6c52ca257d7800164978?OpenDocument.

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PDF:
Network Message: Crown Lands Amendent Bill 2014 

NSWALC position - Crown Lands Amendment Public Ownership of beaches and coastal lands

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Please contact NSWALC on 9689 4444 or policy@alc.org.au if you would like to discuss the Bill, NSWALC's position, or contacting Parliamentarians.