Sir – The Gunner Government will drive away investment with its ideological introduction of veto powers in to the non-pastoral use (NPU) permit system.
The NT Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA) has opposed changes to the NPU brought in by stealth by the Gunner Government more than 15 months ago.
The changes were flagged again as a key priority of this administration by the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources Eva Lawler during Question Time yesterday and will damage the pace of economic diversification as well as create a legislative overreach into an area the Gunner Government does not have control of.
Under the federal Native Title Act there were mechanisms for native title holders to have access to the lands and the current NPU system ensured native title holder rights were not impinged regarding access and sacred sites.
What the Gunner Government has sought to do and what Minister Lawler has again reaffirmed is they want native title holders telling pastoralists what they can and can’t do on the land that they manage and operate properties in a $1bn industry.
The Gunner Government is seeking to punish the only industry in the black by introducing unnecessary red tape that would see decision making timelines in this area dragged out to more than 500 days, if we reach them at all, given at this point in time the Pastoral Land Board, which reviews all non-pastoral use permits, does not have a quorum and is unable to sit.
There is no legal reason to introduce a right to negotiate and claims there is are rubbish.
There is no correlation between Blue Mud Bay and what the Gunner Government is trying to do. Nor is the Minister’s attempt to link the onshore gas discussions to NPUs the same. When it comes to resources we have fewer rights than native title holders and currently the Gunner Government is failing to ensure we are on a level playing field.
Native title holders will derive royalties and compensation for the work of onshore gas companies before the pastoralists ever will and we expect the level of compensation will be dramatically less despite the fact we are an industry which feeds millions of Indonesians.
The NTCA is also critical of claims by the Minister that the appointment of two chief executives had somehow contributed to the failure of the government to move forward on the issue.
The NTCA has not been able to secure a meeting with the Chief Minister Michael Gunner despite requests, one as recently as the first week of July, to settle these matters in more than 15 months. Any claim that there have not been requests or that no requests were made are completely false.
NTCA President Chris Nott says the NT cannot afford to have the current growth of the industry slowed by poor government policy. The key to economic success is opening Aboriginal land for Indigenous people to be able to capitalise on the growth.
“At the station I manage for an Aboriginal organisation, Alcoota, which is roughly 180km north-east of Alice Springs, we’ve contributed around $20m to the economy,” Mr Nott says.
“You have to wonder with 50% of the Territory land Aboriginal owned how much could they contribute to not only industry but to the betterment of their own people and the Territory economy if it was developed. It would be in the hundreds of millions.”
“The government is better advised to be doing that than trying to undermine a successful industry by wrapping it up in unnecessary economic red tape.”
Ashley Manicaros (pictured)
CEO, Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association