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Mining group urges action on Native Title

ADEQUATE funding and proper structural organisation is required to make recommendation on the Native Title issue facing WA’s mining and rural industries workable, according to Association of Mining and Exploration Companies executive officer Alan Layton.

“There is no point in just having a talkfest,” Mr Layton said in response to the Wand Report recommendation for a summit to be formulated to deal with the complex Native Title issue.

The report by former Rio Tinto vice president Paul Wand and native title barrister Chris Athanasiou included a proposal for a summit of Government, the Federal Court, peak bodies and claimants to co-ordinate the resolution of native title applications.

If structured properly, Mr Layton believes, the summit could give the opportunity for constructive dialogue “But just to get every-body together for every-one to get on their favourite soapbox will be useless,” he said.

The report has backed the negotiated settlement of Native Title appli-cations endorsed by the WA Government.

Deputy premier Eric Ripper said major re-forms were needed to go through the backlog of 133 native title applications that was costing the State $10 million every year, half of which was soaked up by legal action.

“WA has a looming legal and financial crisis in native title, with 44 applications already heading for trial in the Federal Court,” he said.

“The cost of dealing with all Native Title applications through the Courts could run into hundreds of millions with uncertain results.”

He said the economic development hinged on successfully approaching native title issues.

“Agreements can cover the interests of all people in the management and use of land and waters – developers, pastoralists, governments and indigenous people – while litigation over Native Title can have negative personal and financial impacts on those involved,” Mr Ripper said.

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