NT Pastoral bill deferred over complaint

The Northern Territory government has withdrawn proposed changes to the Pastoral Land Act which traditional owners fear would stop indigenous groups exercising their native title rights.

In parliament last month Labor introduced amendments to the act which would allow pastoralists to secure sub-leases for non-pastoral business activities such as agriculture and forestry.

The Gunner government spruiked the bill for its potential to unlock development, jobs and productivity in remote areas, but has since deferred it following a complaint from the Northern Land Council, which represents native title holders in the Top End.

The NLC says it was not consulted and Chief Minister Michael Gunner has now agreed to hold discussions.

The NLC is lobbying for a legal right to give native title holders a say in the granting of non-pastoral use permits or subleases and to benefit from new economic activities on their traditional lands.

"It needs to be remembered that pastoral lessees do not own the land and do not have a right of exclusive possession," NLC Chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi said.

"Native title co-exists with a pastoral lease on the same area and the rights of native title holders require equal respect."

The Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association has previously said the proposed amendments provided simplicity and stability in calculating rents for pastoral businesses, and will encourage investment and growth in the NT cattle industry.

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