Native title benchmark

A BENCHMARK has been set for native title cases following the WA Government’s agreement with a group of traditional Aboriginal owners.

The Government and the Spinifex people reached agreement on a consent native title determination covering an area of 50,000 square kilometres of the Great Victoria Desert.

This is the first time the Government has agreed to possession and occupation of the land.

The determination gives prospective developers of resources in the area a point of contact, removing the problem of multiple claimants and creating some certainty of access.

The land holds only vacant Crown and reserve land. No pastoral leases are involved.

The Government owns any minerals, petroleum or water found there but the Spinifex people have the right to negotiate over mineral development.

Wanati principal John Clarke said people could be a bit blasé about the decision because “it’s land that nobody else really wants”.

However, the land does hold mineral prospectivity.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy CEO Ian Satchwell said this determination was welcomed but there were 138 to go.

“It’s going to take some time to clear the back-log,” Mr Satchwell said.

“Having some state-based native title legislation would streamline native title and mining lease administration but we’re not confident of getting that in the short-term.”

Mr Clarke said this determination did not solve problems in the Goldfields and other areas where Aboriginal groups were contesting the ownership of minerals, petroleum and water.

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