PO Box A96, Sydney South NSW 1235 Ph: (02) 9233 4660 Fax: (02) 9233 4880

News Release 3 DEC.1996

Aboriginal Reconciliation threatened by Govt Bill

The National Parks Association today warned that important opportunities for reconciliation with Aboriginal people are threatened by legislation currently before State Parliament.

NPA believes the National Parks and Wildlife Amendment (Aboriginal Ownership) Bill now in the Upper House could well lead to the transfer of most of the state’s national parks to Aboriginal Land Councils without public consultation or justification, severely disrupt conservation management by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and open the door to extensive development in the parks by the Land Councils.

‘This Bill has muddled up the legitimate rights of traditional aboriginal owners to own, care and control lands of clear cultural significance with broader reconciliation issues such as economic improvement and land ownership, already addressed under the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act and native title which may flow from the Mabo decision," said NPA President Ms Anne Reeves.

"The Bill places at risk the broad public ownership and effective nature conservation management of the National Parks estate which has been slowly but surely built with community support over many decades."

The Bill provides for · the immediate transfer of seven National Parks, Nature Reserves or Historic Sites to Aboriginal ownership on the grounds of cultural significance without clearly setting out the criteria which establish their cultural significance · provides for the Land Councils to claim any other national park and provided only it meets at least the level of significance of any of the first parks · provides an estate in fee simple rather than an inalienable freehold or statutory title - ultimately raising the possibility of dealing in the land · provides a guaranteed leaseback of only 30 years for nature conservation purposes- after that any further lease is only with the agreement of the Aboriginal owners · provides for Aboriginal controlled Boards of Management to allow for as yet undefined " community development purposes" in Plans of Management of transferred parks · provides for extended rights to hunt and gather protected wildlife and to log in National Parks · creates a complex system of rental payments to Aboriginal owners and then stipulates that an Aboriginal controlled Board of Management will use the rental only for park management

"The Bill creates an expectation of economic development and compensation from the national parks estate which could eventually undermine the whole system," concluded Ms Reeves. "The government should agree to defer this Bill for broad public consultation and amendment which will ensure that both the legitimate rights of traditional aboriginal owners and the proper management of the National Parks Estate are realised."

For further comment: Ms Anne Reeves 02 2334660 or 018 975 075