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Resources and Energy Alert: WA State native title offer = certainty for South West projects - 12 July 2013

The State of Western Australia has offered a $1.3 billion package to the Noongar People in return for settling all native title claims fully and finally across Perth and the South West of Western Australia.

Premier Barnett announced the key elements of the offer over the weekend.

Effect on native title and heritage matters

Companies interested in the South West area should watch this space. If the offer is accepted, all native title rights to land in the South West will be extinguished – removing the need for proponents to enter compensation agreements or participate in native title claim litigation. 

The package also provides for an aboriginal cultural heritage management regime to be developed with the aim of streamlining Aboriginal Heritage Act 1978 (WA) compliance requirements.

The offer does not alter the current environmental regime for the land.

Crown Land transfer

The package includes a number of benefits for the Noongar community, notably the transfer of up to 320,000 hectares of Crown land to the Noongar Boodja Trust. 

No privately owned freehold land or currently leased Crown land will be affected by this transfer.

The State will continue to hold mineral rights over the transferred land so exploration opportunities remain.

Other key benefits and negotiation timeframes

Other key benefits of the package include:

  • State funded instalments of $50 million a year (indexed) over 12 years into the perpetual Noongar Boodja Trust;
  • State funding of $10 million a year over 12 years to develop six regional Noongar corporations;
  • co-operative management of South West national parks and reserves with the Department of Parks and Wildlife; as well as
  • home ownership and increased economic participation initiatives.

The Noongar community have six months to consider the offer.  If accepted, the State hopes to begin implementing the agreement in July 2014.

Adopting a Canadian approach?

If the State’s proposal is accepted it is an interesting precedent for settling native title claims in Australia, arguably adopting elements of the Canadian regime by dealing with native title claims in their entirety and, in doing so, effectively placing a value on such rights.

Will any other groups be offered or be attracted to similar settlements?

Whether or not this becomes part of the jurisprudence or a precedent for determining compensation for the extinguishment of native title also remains to be seen.

For more information, please contact HopgoodGanim’s indigenous services team.

With offices in Brisbane and Perth, HopgoodGanim offers commercially-focused legal advice, coupled with reliable and responsive service to clients throughout Australia and across international borders.