Native title promises on pastoral leases come unstuck

Vast tracts of the Territory are leased to pastoralists for their massive cattle stations.
Vast tracts of the Territory are leased to pastoralists for their massive cattle stations.

The NT Government has backflipped on its promise to give native title owners more say with the Territory's pastoral leases.

The government today announced its had abandoned plans to change the lease laws after a sustained campaign from graziers, notably the NT Cattlemen's Association.

The association said government red tape had the potential to stifle the pastoral industry, warning of long delays in dealing with native title concerns.

More than 700,000 square kilometres of the Territory is granted to pastoralists under lease arrangements.

The National Farmers Federation also weighed in saying the the planned changes would stifle investment.

Indigenous groups had welcomed proposals to "help strengthen the capacity of native title holders to negotiate with pastoral land lessees".

The NT Government had agreed to allow native title holders had a right to negotiate (a right to be at the table) in relation to major economic developments on their traditional lands when a Non-Pastoral Use Permit (NPUP) for primary production diversification is sought on a pastoral lease.

The National Native Title Council said the changes would "better enable native title holders to be involved in discussions on land use arrangements, protect sacred sites and benefit from economic development on their lands including employment and business opportunities".

The Government said it supported the development and diversification of the Territory's economy and also recognises the rights of native title holders over their land, and how that land is managed.

Environment and Natural Resources Minister Eva Lawler said: "As a Government, we have taken a broad policy position which aims to strike a fair balance between the existence of Native Title, and Pastoral Rights".

The government today revealed the NT Cattleman's Association and Land Councils recently met for the first time to discuss the proposed amendments to the Pastoral Land Act, "and were unfortunately unable to form a collaborative view about the objectives of the proposed amendments".

"Notwithstanding our view of the importance of the policy, the Government has determined not to proceed with the proposed amendments to the Pastoral Land Act," Ms Lawler said.

"We acknowledge that the Land Councils have been strong advocates for these changes and we encourage the continuation of meetings between the Land Councils and the NTCA so that the sustainable development and economic opportunity of the pastoral estate can be realised, for all Territorians."

Ms Lawler said the Government will continue to hold discussions with the Northern and Central Land Councils and the NT Cattleman's Association over the issue.

"As a result the legislation will not be introduced whilst these discussions continue."

The NT Cattlemen's Association said the decision not to proceed with changes to the nonpastoral use permit system in the Pastoral Lands Act was a sensible policy outcome.

NTCA chief executive officer Ashley Manicaros said the cattle industry believed the proposed changes would stifle economic investment if they proceeded.

"Good policy should be driven by solid economic foundations especially when it comes to a desire to diversify an economy," Mr Manicaros said.

"At this point the changes will not proceed. We can now get on with the job of creating even more jobs in the $1.2 billion cattle industry free of any immediate excess red tape."

While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox each Friday at 6am from the Katherine Times. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, sign up here.

This story Native title promises on pastoral leases come unstuck first appeared on Katherine Times.