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Claims cost NLC $18,000

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Two Native Title Claims covering the entire South East region by various people of Aboriginal heritage, have so far cost the Naracoorte Lucindale Council $18,838.65.

If successful, it is unknown what impact the claims will have on Crown land, be it privately or publicly owned.

As parties relevant to the claim, it is understood similar amounts for legal costs have also been funded by ratepayers of Tatiara, Wattle Range, Robe, Kingston, Grant and Mount Gambier councils, which are represented by the Limestone Coast Local Government Association.

The matter was raised in a series of “questions on notice” by Cr Cameron Grundy at Naracoorte Lucindale’s November, 2023 meeting.

Cr Grundy asked CEO Trevor Smart : “Is there a current Native Title Claim being pursued over any land or property situated within the NLC area?”

In response Mr Smart provided a map highlighting the areas of the two claims and a letter from Norman Waterhouse lawyers, dated July 2017.

One claim takes in the whole of the South East, the other claim overlaps the first claim with a significant area north of Kingston.

Mr Smart said there were two claims which “effectively cover the entire Limestone Coast region”.

Cr Grundy asked if there would be any implications for land tenure, “including land under the care and control of council (be it) council or community owned land?”.

Mr Smart: “There will most likely be implications for some Crown land that is under the care and control of council, but to what – if any – extent is unknown at this point in time.” Cr Grundy asked: “What are the implications for Crown land and privately owned freehold land?” Mr Smart said there would be no implications for any freehold land, be it privately owned, or council owned.

But he said the implications for Crown land – under the care of the State or the council – “are unknown at this stage”.

“The claim is progressing through a stage of ‘discovery’ where information on all parcels of Crown land under the care and control of council are being assessed as to the status of the land,” he said.

“This assessment generally involves an indication of the extinguishment of native title through past use, development, leases, etcetera.”

Cr Grundy: “Has, or will NLC be contributing to any legal costs whatsoever with regard to any Native Title claims?”

Mr Smart: “Yes, council will and has incurred legal costs, and as indicated in the Norman Waterhouse correspondence, council is now a party to the claim.

“This allows us to be informed and involved in matters that may affect Crown land under council’s care and control.

“Norman Waterhouse are to the best of my knowledge collectively representing the seven Limestone Coast Councils.”

Mr Smart itemised the amounts paid annually to Norman Waterhouse since 2017/2018, which now totalled $18,838.65.

The application was first lodged with the Federal Court in July 2017, according to a National Native Title Tribunal document titled “Schedule of Native Title Applications”.

A map attached to the document shows the area under claim includes all the region’s seven council areas – the whole of the South East.

An attachment further explained the area being claimed was where “exclusive possession can be recognised”.

Such areas were where there had been no prior extinguishment of native title or where various sections under the Native Title Act applied.

In those areas, the document says “members of the native title claim group claim the right to possess, occupy, use and enjoy the land and waters of the application area as against the whole world, pursuant to their traditional laws and customs”.

It also suggests the application area excludes any land or waters that is or has been covered by various users such as a freehold estate, commercial agricultural and pastoral leases as well as residential or community purpose leases, and some mining leases. 

The Naracoorte News 14 February 2024

This article appeared in the Naracoorte Community News.


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