Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 27 November 2002
Parliamentary Record 9
Debates for 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 9th Assembly 2001 - 2005
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 27 November 2002 required to establish a truly world class and fully integrated NT national parks and reserves conservation system. That certainty will mean that our parks can continue to operate with the necessary guarantee of continued access and enjoyment by all Territorians. Just as importantly, it will also result in new and exciting opportunities to develop our parks and reserves in ways that fully complement our tourism strategies, and will create economic opportunities that are currently going begging. One only has to view the tourism and associated economic development that has occurred within the Nitmiluk National Park over the past decade, since title issues were resolved, to appreciate the potential in other parks where land and joint management issues remain unresolved. The government recognised that if it was to pursue the framework agreement option it would need to lay down at the outset certain core principles that would have to be fully reflected in any final agreement. These core principles included re-declaration of all those parks and reserves that were invalidly declared under section 12 of the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act. This re-declaration does not include the 11 areas now available for hearing before the Aboriginal Land Commissioner as they cannot be legally re-declared. As honourable members would be aware, the government moved quickly to address the issue, and the re-declaration of 38 parks and reserves occurred on 7 November. This prompt action has had the effect of putting the operation of park by-laws beyond any doubt, and of confirming their status as parks and reserves under relevant NT legislation. That was the first core principle. The second: resolution by negotiation rather than through the courts. This requires both the government and the land councils to refrain from pursuing litigation whilst negotiations proceed. Because of the swift and decisive action of government, we were able to stay on the front foot and propose a reasonable course of action that will save governments and Aboriginal interests alike many millions of dollars in litigation costs. The land councils could have legally contested this approach but, to their credit, they have agreed to recognise the alternative path of agreement by negotiation. Another core principle, that Territory parks and reserves will remain accessible to all Territorians and visitors on a no-fee, no-permit basis. By laying down this principle, the government is acting to ensure the interests of the whole community in retaining access to the NT parks and reserves is preserved under any agreement. Another core principle is business as usual in parks while negotiations are completed. This principle provides for all parks and reserves to continue to function as normal while negotiations are undertaken. The final core principle is, where title changes, it is conditional on being leased back to the government for the use as parks and subject to joint management arrangement under NT legislation. The government will negotiate a framework agreement that effectively settles all outstanding issues in relation to our parks and reserves. This includes those areas which are now subject to hearing before the land commissioner, and all those other parks and reserves which are potentially, or are already, subject to native title determinations, native title compensation claims, and other related litigation. All will be the subject of one negotiation consistent with the core principles I am outlining here. The government expects that these negotiations will result in a framework agreement that provides for some parks and reserves where there are no changes to existing arrangements; others where, apart from new joint management arrangements, tenure will remain as it is; others where title will be transferred but be subject to immediate lease-back and joint management arrangements. Another core principle: current mining and exploration leases and applications and current tourism operator concessions are guaranteed. This core principle ensures these existing interests are protected. Another core principle: develop a comprehensive parks masterplan to expand and more effectively manage the NT parks estate. This principle reflects the governments intention to develop a parks masterplan that will guide the future management and uses of land under the NT parks estate. Madam Speaker, I wonder how many honourable members have ever scrutinised the land holdings under the NT parks estate? We are closely examining the lands the previous government acquired over the years. If there was a strategic direction in these acquisitions, it is certainly not apparent in the ways that these land holdings were configured, and it is time they were systematically assessed. We will adopt a strategic approach and develop a comprehensive parks masterplan to guide the development and management of the NT parks estate. The government recognises that apart from Aboriginal interests, there are also legitimate interests in the parks estate involving the mining and pastoral industries, and that there are areas which might be appropriate for multiple land use. The master planning process will also require extensive consultation with mining and pastoral interests, to 3090
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