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Inside track: Local Government

12 February 2020

#Local Government

Published by:

Declan Johnston

Inside track: Local Government

Review of Aboriginal land claim negotiation program findings due soon – existing negotiations on hold

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment commenced its review of the Land Negotiation Program (Program) late last year in response to a review into the effectiveness of Crown land claims. The review is being led by Ms Chris Ronalds AO SC and its outcomes are due for release in March 2020.

Aim of the review

Late last year, the NSW Government initiated a review into the effectiveness of the Land Negotiation Program, a framework to guide negotiation of Aboriginal Land Agreements (ALAs) under the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (ALRA).

The Program has been in place since 2016 and is a partnership between the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE), the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, local councils and NSW based Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs) to ensure that the “people of NSW can gain social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits” from Crown land and to retain the benefit of land for future generations. The review responds to recommendations from the “Crown Lands for the Future: Crown Lands Management Review” conducted in 2014 and which aimed to combine approaches to Crown lands in a streamlined way across legislative areas. Led by Ms Chris Ronalds AO SC, the Program was under review from November to December 2019 with a final report to be published online on 2 March 2020.

Background to the Program

The Program was initiated in 2016 with a small number of stakeholders from the local government areas of Tweed, Tamworth, Northern Beaches and additional councils joining in following years including Randwick, Central Coast, Hilltops, Orange, Cabonne Shire, Blayney Shire and Lismore. The uptake and engagement from local councils has not, as yet, been across the board.

The purpose of the Program is to enable and support outcomes under the ALRA. The ALRA provides for a mechanism by which relevant LALCs can enter into ALAs. ALAs are voluntary agreements entered into by LALCs and government to resolve land claims and were introduced into the ALRA on 1 July 2015. An ALA is entered into by the Minister responsible for administering the Crown Lands Management Act 2016 and one or more LALCs. To provide guidance to the negotiation of ALAs, the Program was introduced to provide greater certainty to parties and to support more efficient processing of land claims. Local councils are affected by ALAs as local government is usually tasked with managing a reserve trust, the subject of a land claim.

What could be improved?

The Program is an innovative initiative which has had some success in achieving its aims. Supporting the purpose of the ALRA, which is primarily economic, the Program has attempted to address the backlog of land claims by giving stakeholders an alternative way to participate and achieve a reasonable outcome. To illustrate, as at 31 March 2019 there were approximately 34,891 undetermined land claims in NSW. As the Program is still in its early stages, there is currently only one ALA in place for land in the local government area at Griffith.

One of the key issues in administering land claims is that once a claim is lodged it presents considerable difficulty for all involved in identifying relevant factual background to support or dispute a claim, particularly when the passage of time has made determining the status of land use the subject of significant effort, resources and investigation.

The ‘big picture’ approach to land claims, Crown land and negotiated agreements

In the context of the review of management of Crown land reserves across NSW and the land estate held by the Crown, the use of ALAs has the potential to significantly speed up land use decisions to the benefit of all stakeholders. This could include, for example, consideration of negotiated agreements to address ‘diverse uses and values’ more broadly for Crown land in a way which is sensitive to the historical issues relating to Aboriginal land use and European settlement, and also provides for economic and social benefits that can be implemented much sooner than the current system allows. Further, local councils will have greater certainty as to the preferred approach to management of reserve trusts in a way which appreciates the complexity of relationships and ownership claims across NSW.

The present backlog and delay in dealing with land claims acts as a potential blockage to a fairer and more equal means of dealing with land use. However, this sort of expansion beyond the Program will only be possible if the nascent success of ALAs is able to grow, and its lessons applied to the management of Crown land more broadly. This will require further resourcing of the Program and education for all stakeholders to ensure an appreciation of the varied interests that could and will benefit if an efficient system is realised.

Expected outcomes of the review

Once completed, Ms Ronalds will make recommendations on the following:

  • vesting of land to local councils
  • use of ALAs to transfer land to LALCs
  • improvements to DPIE’s approach to addressing Aboriginal land claims.

The key focus of the review is to evaluate the Program’s progress. The review will be conducted against the core objectives of the Program, being the retention of certain Crown land for the benefit of all people of NSW and the transfer of appropriate land to Land Councils and LALCs as part of the Program’s commitment to delivering improved economic, social and cultural opportunities for Aboriginal people.

The review was open to program partners, who were invited to provide feedback on the Program. 

Due to the review, current land negotiations will be placed on hold. However, this does not mean the negotiations have been cancelled.

The review will benefit local governments with the report illuminating ways in which the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, LALCs and local councils can best implement the Program. We will look at Ms Ronalds’ report next month.

Authors: Peter Holt, Clara Edwards & Declan Johnston

In the media

Austroads’ new Local Government Road Safety Management Guidance
Austroads has released a new, free guide which attempts to address a dearth of relevant information about road safety guidance for local government. Numerous local government representatives contributed to the new guide, including from councils across Australia and New Zealand, and also the ALGA, Local Government Association of South Australia, and WA Local Government Association (31 January 2020). More...
Topics covered in the guide include developing a framework for road safety management, safe speeds and safe people, and monitoring and evaluation.

Global index shows Australia seen as increasingly corrupt
Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index for 2019 ranks Australia equal 12th in the world in terms of countries considered least corrupt, alongside Austria, Canada and the UK. Eighty per cent of Australians want so see a federal anti-corruption body (30 January 2020).  More...

$47m for drought-affected councils
More than 50 additional drought affected councils will share $47 million of additional funding from the federal government, with larger councils receiving $1 million each to spend as they see fit (29 January 2020).  More...

How long until drought-stricken towns run out of water?
An ABC analysis of data provided by state and local governments paints a dire picture across New South Wales, Queensland and parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Bore water needs to be tested and treated, but it has become a vital back-up for numerous towns reliant on dams and rivers (27 January 2020).  More...

Approvals Data Highlights the Need for Medium Density
Earlier this month, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released detailed dwelling approval data to November 2019.

Breaking down approved dwellings by local government area highlights a concentration of new development in south-east regional and metropolitan centres (23 January 2020).  More...

ATO warns councils over property reporting
The Australian Taxation Office has issued a warning to local councils after finding “systemic” failures in reporting property sales. The ATO has identified that some local councils are not aware of their obligations under the GST at Settlement measure and are not reporting all or some of their property sales in their business activity statements (22 January 2020).  More...

Queensland

LGAQ digs its heels in
The LGAQ has welcomed a decision by the Parliamentary Economics and Governance Committee to make further submissions on the CCC's proposal to remove the 200-year-old common law mens rea defence on intent (30 January 2020).  More...

Independent Assessor: Conduct in the election lead-up
As the 2020 local government elections draw closer integrity issues remain a key theme, as the OIC begins working with the Electoral Commission of Queensland and the Crime and Corruption Commission (30 January 2020).  More...

Locals fume as plan to build industrial complex near school, water supply passes first hurdle
Townsville council has voted to rezone a site that could become home to a battery plant and a nickel refinery, despite staunch opposition from residents (29 January 2020).  More...

Locals air concerns ahead of Burleigh Pavilion hotel application decision
Owners of the southern Gold Coast icon are seeking to change its approved land use, and residents fear that could open the door for poker machines and early-morning trade (29 January 2020).  More...

Locals fume as plan to build industrial complex near school, water supply passes first hurdle
Townsville council has voted to rezone a site that could become home to a battery plant and a nickel refinery, despite staunch opposition from residents (29 January 2020).  More...

Brisbane’s South Bank 2050 Masterplan Team Announced
A consortium to deliver South Bank's 30-year masterplan has been appointed, as part of plans to transform the 42-hectare riverfront precinct in Brisbane’s inner city (28 January 2020).  More...

'Haters gonna hate': Gold Coast Mayor shrugs off corruption report over buying luxury luggage, NRL membership
Queensland's corruption watchdog releases a report into the Gold Coast City Council that details how Mayor Tom Tate used council funds to buy items, including luggage, selfie sticks and a membership to the Gold Coast Titans (24 January 2020).  More...

OIA confirms investigation of Gold Coast mayor
The Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA) is investigating alleged misconduct by the Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate as outlined in the Crime and Corruption Commission’s (CCC) report, Operation Yabber: An investigation into allegations relating to the Gold Coast City Council (24 January 2020).  More...

Transport solution or character-killer? Gold Coast weighs up light rail as council elections loom
Gold Coast residents attack the extension of light rail to Palm Beach and Burleigh during a heated public meeting, but Council is pushing ahead, saying the silent majority want the public transport project (22 January 2020).  More...

Element of intent must remain in new Conflict of Interest offences
The LGAQ is urging the Palaszczuk Government ensure the element of intent remains part of planned new conflict of interest offences currently before State Parliament (21 January 2020).  More...

Brisbane's ‘Central Park’ Masterplan Revealed
A masterplan for the transformation of Victoria Park golf course into a 45-hectare public parkland in Brisbane's inner north has been unveiled (21 January 2020).  More...

In practice and courts

COAG Waste Export Ban - Timetable and capacity building
Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed that Australia should establish a timetable to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, while building capacity to generate high value recycled commodities and associated demand. The Department of Environment and Energy has since released a COAG Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) for public consultation. The closing date for RIS feedback is 12 February 2020.

Have your say on the Draft Heavy Vehicle Productivity Plan 2020-2025
The NHVR has released the Draft Heavy Vehicle Productivity Plan 2020-2025. A copy of the draft Heavy Vehicle Productivity Plan 2020-2025 can be found here. The final plan will incorporate an action plan with performance measurements and targets and is expected to be released in mid-2020. Submissions must be submitted by 13 March 2020.  More...

ALGA: $60m in Safe Places grants
Local councils have until 14 February 2020 to apply for $60 million worth of grants for emergency accommodation which the Commonwealth says will provide up to 450 places for women and children experiencing domestic and family violence.  More...

Telecommunications in new developments is under review
In light of recent and upcoming changes in the provision of telecommunications in new developments, the Commonwealth Department of Communications and the Arts (the Department) is undertaking a review of the Telecommunications in New Developments (TIND) Policy, which came into effect in March 2015. The Department is seeking feedback on the 2015 TIND Policy and has released a discussion paper Review of the 2015 TIND Policy, The Department is aiming to complete the review of the 2015 TIND Policy and make any necessary changes before 1 July 2020. 

EPBC Review
Public submissions have opened for the first review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in a decade. The review’s terms of reference includes that the panel make recommendations to modernise the Act after consultations with State, Territory and other levels of government. Respondents can read this discussion paper and make submissions before 14 February 2020. The review will be completed before October 2020.  More...

Victoria

SRO: Tax Relief Measures –people and businesses affected by bushfires
They include:

  • Land tax relief on properties that have been affected by bushfires or are used to provide free accommodation for people displaced by bushfires.
  • Reduced land transfer duty (stamp duty) on purchases of commercial or industrial property in bushfire affected local government areas.
  • Reduced payroll tax for regional employers with a registered address in a bushfire affected local government area.
  • Motor vehicle duty relief for people who need to replace vehicles destroyed by bushfires.
  • We have also put land tax assessments on hold for people who live or own land in bushfire affected areas.

(28 January 2020).  More...

Review of the Retirement Villages Act 1986
The review is being conducted in response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Retirement Housing Sector and aims to address concerns around: Contractual agreements, including whether contracts are too complex; Disclosure of fees and charges; Obligations for repairs and maintenance and Rights and obligations when selling a village unit.  More...

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning: Local Government Rating System Review
An independent panel is now reviewing all aspects of Victoria’s local government rating system. Their report will be submitted to the Minister for Local Government by 31 March 2020 (January 2020).   More...

Safe Places Emergency Accommodation 
The Department of Social Services has announced that local councils can apply for the Safe Places Emergency Accommodation grant, as part of $60 million worth of grants for emergency accommodation, which aim to provide up to 450 places for women and children experiencing domestic and family violence.  More...

Bushfire recovery grants and funding
A range of funding streams have been announced to support bushfire-affected communities, including:

(23 January 2020).

IBAC: Operation Sandon public hearings will continue in 2020
IBAC's public hearings into allegations of serious corrupt conduct concerning the transparency and integrity of planning and property development decision making, including donations to candidates in local and state government elections, will continue in early 2020.  More...

New $22 million Local Sports Infrastructure Fund
Interested clubs should discuss project proposals with their local council, with applications closing on 14 February 2020.  More...

Significant Sporting Events Program
 Councils may apply for grants in this funding program to support the assistance, management or strategic planning of sports events.  More... 

s.186 exemption for council recycling contracts
The Victorian Local Government Minister has announced a state-wide s.186 exemption for local councils to extend their recycling collection contracts to 30 June 2021. Attached is a copy of the letter sent to all councils co-signed by Minister Somyurek and the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, the Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio MP.

Queensland

QAO: Some advice on waste levies
Advice Did you see our previous blog on the New waste levy for local government? (23 January 2020).  More...

LGAQ: Review of the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act 2017
The Office of the Coordinator-General is leading the review and will be engaging with councils and key stakeholders from the end of January to May 2020 (28 January 2020).  More...

LGAQ: Key events for Queensland councils in 2020
Events for March – October 2020 are outlined here. Keep an eye on the events page which will be updates as more events are confirmed in the calendar.

Operation Yabber - An investigation into allegations relating to the Gold Coast City Council, Investigation Report | 2020 | Queensland
This report is published under section 69 of the Crime and Corruption Act 2001. The Crime and Corruption Commission commenced Operation Yabber in August 2018 to investigate allegations of corrupt conduct relating to senior employs and councillors at the Gold Coast City Council. This report outlines the outcomes of this investigation (24 January 2020).  More...

Gold Coast City Plan amendments: consultation 2nd round
The second round of consultation is being undertaken on proposed amendments to the Gold Coast City Plan. The changes aim to incorporate feedback from the first round of consultation. Major changes from the amendments proposed during the initial round of consultation have been made in the following areas: 

  • Height and Density
  • Built form and Urban Design
  • targeted growth areas
  • growth and diversification of employment
  • environmental mapping
  • land-use changes and alignment approvals

More...

Brisbane City Council: Draft Central Park Masterplan
The draft plan is now out for public consultation following the release of five creative concepts from architecture and planning firms last year. The Victoria Park concept plan is now open to the public until April 28 on the Brisbane City Council’s website.

Have your say: future of South Bank
The Palaszczuk Government is encouraging people to have their say on the future of the South Bank precinct, with the roll out of public consultation on the master plan. The master plan would build on the precinct’s iconic features, while harnessing new ideas. It is expected the master plan process will be completed by the end of 2020.  More...

Implementation of the Spit Master Plan Bill 2019
State Development, Natural Resources and Agricultural Industry Development Committee. Consultation closes 07 February 2020.  More...

Department of Environment and Science: Local Government Waste Management Reforms
Open until 10 February 2020. Have your say on how councils can manage waste collection and disposal in their local government areas.  More...

Queensland Parliament: Current Inquiries
Economics and Governance Committee Submissions close on 09 February 2020. Report due 07 February 2020.  More...

OIA Queensland – Decisions
23/01/2020 Statement from the Independent Assessor Kathleen Florian – Cassowary Coast councillor decision

Queensland Parliament: Current Inquiries
Economics and Governance Committee Submissions close on 09 February 2020. Report due 07 February 2020.  More...

Have your say: future of South Bank
The Palaszczuk Government is encouraging people to have their say on the future of the South Bank precinct, with the roll out of public consultation on the master plan. The master plan would build on the precinct’s iconic features, while harnessing new ideas. It is expected the master plan process will be completed by the end of 2020.  More...

Cases

Queensland

In the making of the Winton Shire Council Certified Agreement 2019 [2020] QIRC 12
(CB/2019/134) Industrial Commissioner Thompson 28 January 2020

In the making of the Goondiwindi Regional Council Certified Agreement 2019-2021 INDOOR [2020] QIRC 7
(CB/2019/132) Pidgeon IC 14 January 2020

In the making of the Goondiwindi Regional Council Certified Agreement 2019-2021 OUTDOOR [2020] QIRC 5
(CB/2019/130) Pidgeon IC 14 January 2020

Legislation

Queensland

Subordinate legislation as made - 31 January 2020
No 3 Proclamation No. 1—Electoral and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (commencing certain provisions)
No 5 Rural and Regional Adjustment (2019–2020 Extraordinary Bushfires Disaster Recovery Funding) Amendment Regulation 2020
No 6 Local Government (Change of Representation for Cloncurry Shire Council) Amendment Regulation 2020

Subordinate legislation as made – reminder
No 228 Proclamation—Local Government Electoral (Implementing Stage 2 of Belcarra) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (commencing remaining provisions)
This Proclamation fixes the following dates for the commencement of a number of remaining provisions: 20 January 2020, and 30 March 2020. To improve transparency and public accountability of local government elections in line with State and Commonwealth electoral and governance frameworks  

Disclaimer
The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this newsletter is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.

Published by:

Declan Johnston

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