Annual Report 2010-2011
Output 3.1 Land Use Agreements
The CLC has statutory functions to assist traditional owners in the
management of their land and to negotiate on their behalf with people
wanting to use Aboriginal land.
Before consultations on land use agreements can begin, the right traditional owners for the land need to be correctly identified
Under section 19 of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, the CLC may direct a land trust to enter into an agreement or grant an interest in land to a third party. However the CLC is not the decision-making body.
Before giving a direction to a land trust, the CLC must ensure that the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land understand the nature of the transaction and, as a whole, consent to it.
The CLC must also ensure that affected Aboriginal people are given an opportunity to express their views, and that the terms and conditions are reasonable.
Where landowners instruct the Land Council to negotiate an agreement for a lease or licence, the technical, legal and commercial expertise of the Land Council ensures that the benefits to the landowners are maximised.
These benefits can include employment and training opportunities as well as
The CLC monitors projects to ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of the lease or licence and distributes income received on behalf of
landowners under lease and licence agreements.
Land use agreements on Aboriginal land cover interests as diverse as tourism development, feral animal harvesting, grazing licences and leases for infrastructure.
Leases to government for housing and infrastructure have drawn heavily on CLC’s resources again this financial year. All of these proposals require the CLC to carry out a traditional owner identification process (TOID) so that the correct people can be notified and consulted.
The CLC has devoted considerable resources this year to helping traditional owners and community members differentiate between the types of leasing proposals
that they are routinely being asked to consider.
Voluntary leases (those granted by consent of the traditional owners) can be readily differentiated from non-voluntary leases (the five-year leases that were compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth). The CLC has consistently opposed non-voluntary leasing. By contrast, the CLC supports voluntary leasing as a way for government, organisations and businesses operating on Aboriginal land to formalise their rights in relation to particular assets and to demonstrate their respect for the Aboriginal landowners.
The CLC has consistently advised traditional owners and communities to evaluate voluntary leasing proposals based on whether the lease terms and conditions are fair and reasonable. A land council must be satisfied that the terms and conditions are reasonable before it can direct a land trust to grant a lease.
There are currently five main categories of leasing being dealt with by the CLC, which can be sorted into three groups, depending on the legislation that governs them:
1. Non voluntary leasing – under the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007
- Five-year leases in place over thirty-one communities in the CLC region which were compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth
2. Voluntary leasing – under s19A, Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976
- Whole of community (township) leases
3. Voluntary leasing – under s19, Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976
- Housing leases
- NT Government infrastructure leases
- Other non-government leasing applications which are primarily made by Aboriginal organisations, not-for-profit organisations and businesses
The CLC has continued to demand that the Commonwealth pay fair rent for the five-year leases that it compulsorily acquired to support its Intervention initiatives in 2007. The Commonwealth made an unacceptably low payment of rent in May 2010 and has asked the Valuer-General for another valuation.
The Commonwealth has asked the CLC to distribute the money paid to date. The CLC has responded that it is inefficient and counterproductive to hold meetings for that purpose before the quantum of the five-year lease payment is certain.
The CLC has suggested to the Commonwealth that given it is required to pay ‘just terms compensation’ as opposed to fair rent, it should consider paying the five-year lease rent in a one-off payment, which would make it easier for Aboriginal landowners to spend it constructively. The CLC has further suggested that it would be appropriate for the Commonwealth to refrain from reducing the quantum of rent it pays should the five-year lease area decrease in size (the five-year lease areas decrease in size as parcels of land are progressively leased to third parties). These suggestions have been rejected by the Commonwealth.
Whole of Community (Township) Leases
In May 2011 the Commonwealth asked the CLC to consult with the traditional owners of Hermannsburg, Lajamanu and Yuendumu, and all affected communities, in relation to a second ‘whole of township lease proposal’. The proposal was not well detailed but rather amounted to a willingness by the Commonwealth to negotiate a more beneficial deal than the one that was rejected in each community in 2008-2009. The Commonwealth requested an answer to its proposal by 20 June 2011.
The timeframe for these consultations dictated by the Commonwealth could have been more mindful of the CLC’s forward planning processes that are essential to it conducting complicated and resource-intensive consultations in an effective and efficient manner. The CLC was able to conduct consultations on the proposals relating to Hermannsburg and Lajamanu, in June 2011. In both cases the revised whole of community (township) lease proposal was not consented to
Housing Leases in Hermannsburg and Lajamanu were finalised this financial year. The traditional owners of Hermannsburg and Lajamanu respectively granted a 40-year lease over the community housing to the Commonwealth, which in turn immediately granted a 10-year sublease to the NT Government (Territory Housing). The two housing leases granted cover in excess of 180 community houses and also include vacant lots for new housing.
This housing lease model has been adopted with conditions that will provide an opportunity, in 2021, for Aboriginal housing providers or other social housing providers to be granted a sublease over the community housing.
The Commonwealth will pay no rent for these leases but has instead committed, through the SIHIP Program, to build 26 new houses in Hermannsburg and 17 new houses plus two rebuildsin Lajamanu. Both communities have been additionally promised that a community housing refurbishment program will be undertaken.
Leases and Licences
The CLC has consulted in 12 major communities regarding the request by the NT Government for 40-year leases over its infrastructure which, depending on the community in question, includes schools, police stations, health centres, staff housing, power, water and sewerage infrastructure. In each case the traditional owners consented to the grant of Northern Territory infrastructure leases subject to the finalisation of the rent schedules and a number of smaller issues that arise from the need to accurately describe the lease area. Approximately 200 lots will be leased to the NT Government in these 12 communities.
These lease consultations, whilst logistically challenging have been uncontroversial. This is because the leases primarily cover existing infrastructure within a community which is recognised as belonging to the NT Government and because the NT Government has agreed to pay fair rent.
The CLC has not received any applications for leases from any of the shires.
The CLC has been responding to a variety of lease requests predominantly from Aboriginal organisations operating in communities, but also from
not-for-profit organisationsand businesses.
Organisations that provide services on behalf of government, or who receive significant funding from government, are applying for leases as a pre-requisite to receiving government funding. Other organisations and businesses are applying for leases because they consider it prudent to formalise their rights in relation to particular assets.
The CLC continued to support traditional owners in negotiations with local and interstate pastoral interests seeking grazing licences over Aboriginal-owned land and in the ongoing monitoring of licence conditions.
Key points of negotiation include training and employment opportunities for traditional owners, sustainable grazing levels compatible with cultural and natural resource values, and redevelopment of pastoral infrastructure for the future benefit of traditional owners. The licences have largely been for five years but this year they ranged from one year up to 12 years with right of renewal conditions in some cases.
During 2010-2011 the CLC conducted assessments, consultations and negotiations for the following external proposals for pastoral production and related activities on Aboriginal land:
Long-term grazing proposal
The CLC continued negotiations over a complex proposal from an interstate consortium for a large long-term grazing licence over the aggregation of the Yalpirakinu ALT (formerly Mount Allan), Ngalurrtju ALT (formerly Central Mount Wedge) and an adjoining area of the Haasts Bluff ALT in the Papunya area. The Haasts Bluff ALT portion was dropped from the proposal due to conflicting traditional owner land use aspirations for the area. The CLC commissioned a land valuation on the first stage of the proposal over Yalpirakinu ALT so it could advise on fair terms. Negotiations are continuing.
Management issues with the licensee of the Walpeyangkere grazing licence were resolved with the relinquishment of the grazing licence.
Agreement finalised on a proposal from the neighbouring McDonald Downs pastoralist for a grazing licence over part of the Angarapa ALT. There is traditional owner consent for a 10-year grazing licence agreement but it was still unsigned as at 30 June 2010.
As a condition of the ABA-funded Huckitta station purchase the CLC facilitated the issuing of a 12-month grazing licence to the former lessee by the Huckitta Aboriginal Corporation at settlement on 6 August 2010 to allow for a planned transition to Aboriginal management.
The CLC represented traditional owner interests at a muster of an area under grazing licence on the west side of the Mungkarta ALT.
Ooratippra PPL/Irrmarne ALT (former Ooratippra Stock Reserve)
- Assisted traditional owners of Ooratippra station and the adjoining Irrmarne ALT to grant a licence to the McDonald Downs pastoralist
- Provided mediation assistance in an ongoing dispute between two groups of traditional owners affecting the development of their interests in the station.
Pmere Nyente and Atnetye ALTs
Finalised consultations and negotiations over agreement details for a 12+12-year grazing licence to Numery station over adjoining portions of the Atnetye and Pmere Nyente ALTs and facilitated signing of the agreement by all parties.
The CLC researched and consulted in regard to a lease proposal for the agistment of horses on a portion of the land trust close to Tennant Creek
Consulted traditional owners of the Kurnturlpara and Warumungu ALTs (southern Barkly Tablelands locality) regarding renewal of a grazing licence.
Feral Animal Harvesting
The CLC continued to receive and respond to enquiries from local, interstate and international parties proposing to harvest camels on Aboriginal land or offering related services in camel management.
Only one formal proposal was submitted but unfortunately it did not provide any clear description of the proposed harvesting activities and was not taken to traditional owners.
The CLC successfully negotiated with the NT Parks and Wildlife Service on behalf of a traditional owner of the Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve seeking consent to commercially harvest feral camels from the area.
The CLC continued to educate camel industry stakeholders on issues and processes relevant to creating an agreement to commercially harvest camels on Aboriginal land.
Continued to consult traditional owners and negotiate with the proponent Into The Blue (ITB) over a proposed six-day walking trail on the Ntaria, Ltalatouma and Haasts Bluff ALTs. After an evaluation by the CLC, the traditional owners approved a further 12-month trial agreement.
Visionstream optic fibre cable
In 2009 Visionstream Pty Ltd approached the CLC about installing a fibre optic cable on behalf of NextGen Networks Pty Ltd within the railway corridor between Alice Springs and Tennant Creek, a distance of approximately 500 kilometres.
The corridor has been leased to Australasia Railway Corporation where it traverses Aboriginal land trusts. The communications cable was not a permitted use under the leases, but the lessee could provide a licence for the cable with the consent of the land trusts. The CLC also represented native title holders.
The CLC consulted the relevant traditional landowners about the project, negotiated the necessary agreements with all parties, completed sacred site clearances and the cable was installed during the year. The project also involved the leasing of small areas of Aboriginal land adjacent to the Barkly Highway for booster facilities to be installed.