Red tape strangling ag development in the Northern Territory, say cattlemen

NT cattlemen furious over push for power of veto over non-pastoral use permits

NOT THE WAY: Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association president, Chris Nott, says native title holders shouldn't have veto powers over non-pastoral use land permits.

NOT THE WAY: Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association president, Chris Nott, says native title holders shouldn't have veto powers over non-pastoral use land permits.


NT cattlemen say veto powers on non-pastoral use permits unnecessary and holding back ag development in the Top End.


Northern Territory beef producers have blasted moves by the NT Government to continue to press ahead with moves to introduce veto powers in the non-pastoral use (NPU) permit system.

The Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association (NTCA) said it had been unsuccessfully seeking meetings with the Northern Territory Government for the past 15 months to discuss its opposition to the plan.

The NTCA sees non-pastoral use permits as essential to unlocking expansion of NT agriculture including developing untapped irrigation potential for pastures and diversification into enterprises like aquaculture, horticulture, crops and tourism.

It is furious the NT Government wants to insert a "right to negotiate" clause for native title holders which effectively meant they could stop dead in its tracks any proposed development under a NPU permit.

NTCA chief executive officer Ashley Manicaros said the NT Minister for Environment and Natural Resources Eva Lawler this week had flagged her government's intention to implement the change.

He said the move would damage the pace of economic diversification as well as create a legislative overreach into an area the NT Government didn't have control of.

Mr Manicaros said the federal Native Title Act had 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 (NT) 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 $1 billion industry," Mr Manicaros said.

"The Gunner Government is seeking to punish the only industry in the black (in the territory) 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.

"When it comes to resources we have less rights than native title holders and currently the Gunner Government is failing to ensure we are on a level playing field."

Earlier this year the NTCA raised concerns about the activities of onshore gas companies including claims they had no respect for pastoralists.

"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 a $1 billion industry which feeds millions of Indonesians on a yearly basis," Mr Manicaros said.

NTCA president Chris Nott, Alcoota Station, Alice Springs, said the NT couldn't afford to have the current growth of the industry slowed by poor government policy and said the key to economic success was opening aboriginal land for indigenous people to be able to capitalise on the growth.

"You have to wonder with 50 per cent 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."

However, the NCTA has welcomed moves by the government to introduce sub-leasing of pastoral stations which is mainly aimed at stimulating its hopes for a major hemp industry in the territory for textile use.

The sub-leases would give pastoralists ongoing oversight over the land and investment security to lessees.

There were also moves to widen the definition of pastoral activity which might reduce the need for NPU permits.


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