Call for Inquiry – NSW public land being used for airport runway expansion

Lindy Smith, Dawn Walker, Jan Barham MLC, Cr Gary Bagnall and Mayor Katie Milne visit the Crown Reserve affected by Gold Coast airport expansion

The Greens have expressed shock and called for a transparent and public inquiry regarding the approval of an Instrument Landing System (ILS) at the Gold Coast Airport.

Greens candidate for Richmond, Dawn Walker, said: “I am concerned to see that a runway extension has been written into the lease granted to the airport for the NSW Crown Reserve at West Tweed.

“This lease was signed between the Government and the airport without public consultation and I stand with the community in asking for the protection of public land for recreation and environmental conservation, not given away on our behalf to private interests.”

Greens MP and Crown Lands spokesperson, Jan Barham MLC, said: “The approval of the Instrument Landing System (ILS ) by the federal government is a sleight of hand that will impact dramatically on protection of NSW crown land and the wellbeing of many people in the Tweed and the Gold Coast. This process is one of deception.

“The installation of an ILS is an act of subterfuge that is all about the twice defeated plans for a runway extension. The airport wants to extend the runway to allow larger and louder aircraft such as the Airbus A340 to fly over the Tweed.

“The increased aircraft traffic will come at the cost of precious public lands, including the significant Cobaki wetlands with salt marsh and fish breeding habitat destroyed. The Crown Land is reserved for ‘public recreation’ not private interest.

“I have asked questions in Parliament about how the privately owned Gold Coast Airport gained access to the lease rights over NSW Crown Land.

“The extension proposal had twice been rejected because of the impact on the Crown Land which will include wholesale clearing of public land and protected vegetation and habitat. But with the approval for the ILS by the federal government, no state laws apply and no further approval is needed by the state Minister for Crown Lands, Niall Blair.

“The NSW Government has not revealed the date of the transfer of the land to enable the airport to make the application to the Commonwealth. Concerns have been raised as to whether the lease was valid at the time of its approval. The NSW Government passed laws that allowed inconsistent land uses to be validated but it appears the lease was given one month before the legislation was introduced to Parliament.

“Local residents including the Tweed Heads Residents and Ratepayers Association are demanding an inquiry into how this public land could be transferred to a private entity to be destroyed.

“I will take concerns of the community and the Richmond Greens candidate to the Parliament and will ask further questions and present a proposal for an inquiry. It may also be that this is not an isolated issue and that needs to be investigated. The public has a right to know that public land is being managed in the public interest, not to enrich private interests,” concluded Ms Barham.

For comment:
Jan Barham MLC 0447853891
Dawn Walker, Greens federal candidate for Richmond 0411 404 588

See attachment for background information.

Clearing the Aboriginal land claims backlog must be a NSW Government priority in 2016

The Auditor-General’s latest update on Aboriginal land claims shows that the Government must significantly increase the resources available for Crown Lands to address the backlog and deliver on the promise of land rights, says Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson on Aboriginal Affairs and Crown Lands.

“The Auditor-General’s report on Trade and Investment shows that despite having enacted the Aboriginal Land Rights Act more than 30 years ago, successive governments’ failure to process tens of thousands of claims means that it isn’t delivering the opportunities for economic development and self-determination that should be available to Aboriginal people,” Ms Barham said.

“The Auditor-General’s repeated recommendation to clear this backlog can only be fulfilled if the Government delivers a significant increase in priority and resources for the processing of land claims, along with a constructive and transparent process for negotiating Aboriginal Land Agreements under the land rights amendments passed by the Parliament last year.

“In 2014-15 the number of unprocessed claims rose to more than 28,000, and 754 of those claims have been left unresolved for more than a decade.

“I welcome the Government’s effort to reduce the number of land claims that had been approved but weren’t transferred out of the Department, but there are still 220 approved claims covering land valued at $742 million that must be transferred to Aboriginal ownership as quickly as possible.

“In 2012 the Auditor-General called on the Government to develop a plan for addressing the backlog of Aboriginal land claims. Last year the Parliament passed legislation that will allow the negotiation of voluntary agreements between Government and Land Councils.

“Aboriginal land agreements create the possibility of addressing more than one claim at a time and finding a way forward that is agreeable to all stakeholders, but this framework needs to be backed up by a transparent, inclusive process for proceeding with those negotiations.

“Importantly, the Government must ensure that the 2016 Budget commits the funding and resources required to allow a much greater degree of effort at resolving claims, both through determining them individually and by entering negotiations for land agreements.

Ms Barham called on the new Crown Lands Minister, the Hon. Niall Blair, to reinvigorate the land rights movement in New South Wales and overcome the issues that have undermined the land claims process.

“During the previous Parliament the Government caused unnecessary damage to their credibility and standing with Aboriginal people and organisations by introducing legislation to extinguish land claims relating to coastal lands.

“I’ve been pleased that Minister Blair has engaged far more constructively on these issues since his appointment as Crown Lands Minister. With ongoing commitment and the right processes and resources, he has the opportunity to restore faith in the Aboriginal land rights framework by working hard to address the backlog of claims,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Auditor-General’s Report Volume Twelve 2015: Trade and Investment

Labor’s Lot 490 proposal shows outrageous disregard for Aboriginal land claim

The Labor Party has undermined Aboriginal Land Rights in the Tweed by introducing legislation that would affect a land claim, says North Coast Greens MP and spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs and Crown Lands, Jan Barham MLC.

Ms Barham’s comments follow the introduction into NSW Parliament by Labor’s Walt Secord MLC of a Bill that would reserve Lot 490 as a regional park.

“This significant and environmentally sensitive area is currently protected from development by Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council’s land claim, which is one of thousands across the state waiting to be finalised. The legislation introduced by NSW Labor shows no regard for the importance of that claim,” Ms Barham said.

“Any announcement on the end use of the land is premature, and it undermines the intent of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act to provide self-determination and compensation for the traditional owners and custodians of the land.

“A recent public land forum I hosted in the Tweed heard from Tweed Byron Land Council’s Leweena Williams and local conservationists about the ecological significance of Lot 490.

“It’s important to note that Aboriginal land claims can include conditions such as easements for public access to areas such as the beach. Once a land claim is granted, the Government can also negotiate for the reservation or dedication of lands for the purpose of nature conservation.

“Labor has disregarded the fundamental importance of Aboriginal land rights and the need for self-determination and negotiation with the Aboriginal community. This Bill mustn’t proceed until the land claim has been determined, and I call on the Government to ensure the claim is resolved as quickly as possible.

“I have continued to press the Government to clear the backlog of unresolved Aboriginal land claims. The Greens strongly support Aboriginal land rights and the need to prioritise Aboriginal communities’ ownership and custodianship of land.”

Ms Barham noted that Lot 490 had a long history of being earmarked for development by both local and state governments and called for the importance of both the Aboriginal land claim and the environmental and cultural values of the site to be respected.

“The Greens recognise the strong community support for ensuring the land is protected from inappropriate private development and we know how important it is that the area’s threatened species and biodiversity are protected.

“It was Labor’s Tony Kelly who removed Tweed Shire Council as trustees of the Crown reserve in 2004 and then proposed leasing the site for a major development by Leighton Holdings, which thankfully fell through.

“For Labor to claim that they are the environmental protectors of the Tweed defies belief, and for them to undermine Aboriginal land rights in the process is disgraceful,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Brunswick Heads forum hears Public Lands are at risk

A community forum held in Brunswick Heads last week heard from a range of community representatives who highlighted how the mismanagement of public lands is at a desperate point that hasn’t been experienced for over 20 years, says Jan Barham, the North Coast Greens MP who hosted the event. Ballina MP Tamara Smith and Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson also took part in the meeting.

“It was shocking to hear from the representatives about the lack of community consultation and protection of our social, natural and economic environment. The meeting unanimously supported a call for a Parliamentary inquiry to review the current mismanagement of public lands,” Ms Barham said.

The forum heard presentations about coastal management, biodiversity, forests, Brunswick caravan parks and foreshores and Aboriginal land claims.

John Corkill, a former Coastal Council member outlined the state of play in relation to coastal protection and identified the lack of community input to the Byron Shire Councils move to build a rockwall at Belongil and called for the Government to intervene to prevent the works.

“Coastal crown lands are a priceless public recreational resource and they play host to many ecologically and economically important species, but the wrong policy settings for managing them in the face of climate change, by Government and local councils, can reduce their chances of survival, and adversely affect community use of these vital public open spaces,” said Mr Corkill.

Respected local ecologist, David Milledge, informed the meeting of the biodiversity value of the north coast and how current forestry practices are putting the survival of some species at risk, including devastating images of poor logging practices. Mr Milledge outlined the role of State Forests to protect biodiversity conservation under the Comprehensive Regional Agreements that were established 10 years ago designed to regulate the logging practices to protect soil, water and threatened species but are failing. State Forests provide crucial refugia for biodiversity, supporting core populations and in many cases linking to the protected National Parks and Nature Reserves on the north coast.

“The State Government’s rules designed to manage the unique values of our public forests are not being applied and have been virtually abandoned. Poor logging practices have meant a loss of biodiversity that includes, loss of habitat for hollow-dependent threatened species and prey species of apex predators and a loss of riparian species requiring stream buffers. It’s essential that a landscape approach to forestry management must incorporate independent pre-logging assessments and exclusion zones based on Threatened species models and post logging burning must be abandoned” said David Milledge.

North East Forest Alliance member Dailan Pugh acknowledged a major concern that the contracts issued 10 years ago overestimated wood supply and that the failure to enforce the regulations for environmental management has been a desperate attempt to deliver wood supply. He also showed dramatic images of poor logging practices that have resulted in the landscape devastation of Bell Miner Associated Dieback (BMAD) which is impacting not only on the State Forests but also on the protected reserve system.

“As sawlogs are being cut out due to intentional overlogging, our public forests are coming under increasing threat by those wanting to open up national parks for logging, grazing and shooting, and those wanting to clearfell State forests to feed them into furnaces to generate electricity under the pretense it is renewable energy” said Dailan Pugh.

“The State Government has not acted as a responsible land manager in responding to the breaches of forestry practices that have been brought to their attention by NEFA and their independent audits. The EPA has done little to protect the public lands even when evidence was provided. It is devastating that the loss of biodiversity is not regarded as a high priority and that the Forestry Commission operates as a rogue element due to the government’s negligence” said Jan Barham MLC.

The presentations regarding the mismanagement of Brunswick caravan parks and foreshores is a long running issue and now the dredging of the harbour has outraged the community. The meeting called for the return of the management of Brunswick Heads public lands to Byron Shire Council so it can comply with the adopted Brunwick Estuary and Tourism Management Plans and ensure the character of the low key seaside village is retained.

Brunswick Head Progress Association president, Leonie Bolt, outlined that the community did not support the current harbour and foreshore works.

“A Brunswick community meeting adopted a resolution that calls on the NSW Government to suspend the Plans of Management pending a review and investigation into the process of their preparation. The lack of regard for the community views puts at risk the character and future enjoyment of the Brunswick Heads village for residents and visitors. The dredging of the harbour has proceeded without the appropriate consultation with Aboriginal representative and has not clarified the long term management issues” said Ms Bolt.

“The lack of respect for Aboriginal people by not consulting about the Brunswick Heads river works is a disgrace. Additional disturbing issues about the impact of the dredging of the Brunswick harbour and river relating to the disturbance and disposal of contaminated sands on our beaches and the risks for the natural environment add to the litany of concerns about the mismanagement of public lands and justify the call for an inquiry” said Ms Barham.

Next week a forum in the Tweed will hear from representatives concerned about the transfer of a public reserve to Gold Coast airport and the potential destruction of key habitat that will impact on the fisheries of the Cobaki with the proposed airport extension. The resolution of outstanding Aboriginal land claims on the coast and the lack of care for Tweed biodiversity will also be presented.

South Tweed Community Centre – 10am, Saturday 29th August

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891