Reform fails to land

Nov 10, 2022 | Neil Thomson MLC, State News

WA Labor is proposing changes to the Land Administration Act 1997 which will see the Minister for Lands gaining significant power at the expense of Local Government and other groups that have been managing Crown land, according to the Shadow Minister for Lands, the Hon Neil Thomson MLC.

“I am deeply concerned that the checks and balances by our community are continuously being eroded by WA Labor, especially in sensitive areas such as conservation, water management and Aboriginal lands,” said Mr Thomson.

“This is a pattern. WA Labor has been diminishing transparency and community rights through new legislation such as the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2021 and, most recently, the Planning and Development Amendment Bill 2022.

“The proposed changes to the Land Administration Act 1997 will see the Minister for Lands being able to overrule a management group if it chooses to remove land from a reserve, for example a conservation reserve. This will result in less transparency and accountability”, said Mr Thomson.

“Furthermore, the proposed provisions will enable the Minister for Lands to issue ‘Diversification Leases’ without the need for an open and transparent competitive process. Apart from a major strategic project, there should probably only be one other circumstance where a lease can be issued without competition and that is to a prescribed body corporate representing local Native Title holders or other Aboriginal inhabitants where Native Title has been established and there are no other interests on the land.

“Everyone in Western Australia should be concerned about these new Ministerial powers, given the track record of the WA Government on its dodgy property deals.

“This reform also kicks the can down the road on pastoral lease renewals and concerningly, the establishment of this new tenure type may see the government not renewing pastoral leases in the future.

“Reform is needed, but centralising power in the Minister is not the way forward in a modern land management system.

“I can assure stakeholders including pastoralists, native title holders and conservation groups, that I will be placing the Government under detailed scrutiny when the Bill makes its way to the Legislative Council.

“This legislation is too important for the Minister to avoid debate by declaring it an Urgent Bill.

“We need to build a multi-land use framework that provides for best and highest use of our Crown land estate and maximises environmental and economic outcomes while appropriately respecting the rights of traditional owners. These proposed reforms do not achieve these objectives.

“This is yet another opportunity missed by this State Government to have a modern, transparent system of land management,” said Mr Thomson.