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Agreement waits only for State

SIXTEEN wheatbelt councils frustrated with land access delays have reached agreement with three Native Title claim groups and the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council to simplify access processes.

The agreement uses the provisions of the Native Title Act to set aside some land access processes so that the councils can directly negotiate with the SWALSC within certain timeframes.

This gets around current delays of several years for land grants and will allow several towns to grow more readily.

One of the councils needs quick access to vacant crown land to expand its cemetery, another requires land for a much-needed residential subdivision, and another wants more industrial space.

However, the Indigenous Land Use Agreement loses its land access capabilities without the inclusion of the State Government.

Deacons senior counsel Marcus Holmes says State Government departments were involved in initial negotiations, but none had attended any meetings or responded to drafts or correspondence since mid last year.

The Department of Land Administration had been particularly keen in early negotiations and its ideas had been included in the agreement, Mr Holmes said.

Mr Holmes said the agreement was drafted in accordance with key recommendations from the WA Government’s Technical Taskforce on Mineral Tenements and Land Title Applications report and the report of the Select Committee on Native Title Rights in WA.

Senior DOLA people who understood Native Title and had considered submissions from the wheatbelt councils had written chapter 6 of the Technical Taskforce report.

Parts of this chapter, almost word-for-word, were incorporated into the agreement, Mr Holmes said.

Central Country Zone chief executive Niel Mitchell described the agreement as “a true regional agreement with real benefit”, but agreed it was without teeth should the State Government not also become a party.

The agreement was sent last week to the appropriate Government Ministers, and receipt has been acknowledged by some, Mr Holmes said.

“It contains nothing out-of-the-blue, nothing that would surprise the State,” he said.

“Everyone around the table has reached agreement.

“Now we’re just waiting for the State.”

Mr Holmes is advisor to the council coalition, the Central Country Zone.

The agreement, negotiated with the Ballardong, Gnaala Karla Booja and Wagyl Kaip claimant groups, is the result of three years of work, initiated by the SWALSC.

The Department of Land Administration needs to be involved in the agreement, as it is the body that must compulsorily acquire land.

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