The drought isn’t the only worry on the land

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Cattle numbers in The Centre have halved because of the drought and “if it rained tomorrow” it would take five years for them to be returned to the normal level, according to the president of the NT Cattlemen’s Association, Chris Nott.

 

He says beef prices have remained “pretty good” because the dollar dropped, there is high demand from China resulting from the swine flu, and live export.

 

However, growers who rely not on feed lots but on grass fodder are forced to sell and face price drops of around 50%: “No-one’s got grass.”

 

Only 5% of cattle in The Centre are exported live, the bulk is sold domestically.

 

The lack of rain isn’t the only thing keeping cattlemen awake at night, says Mr Nott: The wrangle about non-pastoral use of land – such as tourism, horticulture, agriculture and forestry – is far from resolved.

 

The NT is the only administration in Australia introducing an involvement of native title holders and traditional owners (TOs), in addition to their already existing rights of access for purposes including ceremonies and traditional hunting.

 

The Bill was scheduled for debate in the current sittings but has now been deferred until October 14.

 

In the case of non-pastoral uses worth less than $15m it is proposed that TOs need to be notified.

 

But if the project value exceeds $15m the TOs will get a veto right if the Bill is passed in its present form.

 

Mr Nott says this adds a further layer of red tape and uncertainty.

 

The proposal is for a three months time frame for negotiations, but in many cases the identity of all TOs is not known and the process would take much longer.

 

Their identification and transport to meetings would be a cost to the pastoralist, likely to range from $30,000 to $50,000.

 

The current state of play between the cattlemen, the NT Government and the Aboriginal land councils is “we agree to disagree,” says Mr Nott.

 

“For all governments around the world, in 20 years’ time, the number one priority is going to be food and water for their populations.

 

 

The lighter side of life on the land: Horses for Courses riders who will travel in the saddle from Glen Helen to Alice Springs, starting on Sunday.

 

“And yet here we have a government so narrow-minded, so short focussed, to bring in all that red tape.

 

“The Murray Darling Basin problems are well documented, the drought in NSW, in Queensland – you have to have a Plan B.

 

“We see so much scope for North Australia, and yet we have the NT Government stifling that investment,” says Mr Nott.

 

“What’s the agenda? What is the ideology? The TOs already have 50% of the Territory. Why are they not developing their own country?”

 

Mr Nott says cattlemen have spent millions of dollars to acquire the leases, and the stamp duty they pay to the government confirms they own them.

 

“Why are the land councils and the government putting the blowtorch on those lease owners? Why is it that TOs have a right into the management of these leases?”

 

Of the 220 leases in the NT, 80 had native title claims put on them.

 

Industrial manslaughter legislation is another major looming issue.

 

Mr Nott says the association has been campaigning for its members to be aware of OH&S obligations.

 

Cattle work is one of the highest risk occupations, dealing with unpredictable large live animals: “These risks are hard to plan for,” says Mr Nott.

 

The association is also coming to grips with CO2 emissions as Meat and Livestock Australia is planning for the industry to be carbon neutral by 2030.

 

Mr Nott says the numbers for Central Australia haven’t been done yet.

 

The usual carrying capacity here is two head per square kilometre.

 

The question is, what is greater: The emissions from two cows farting or the CO2 being sequestrated by the flora on the two square kilometres?

 

Meanwhile the association is finalising a land access agreement submission for gas and oil companies and any fracking activities.

 

 

 

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5 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. The Serf
    Posted October 5, 2019 at 7:08 am

    @ Mark: No, it originally was the NT Cattlemen’s Association as they wanted freehold like rights on a lease not authorised by the Act where the lease originated. They asked the Territory Government and proposed the amendment.
    That’s illegal under native title so that amendment failed, now we have this one which if it grants freehold type rights for lessees, it will fail too.
    Can you tell me then how much security lessees will have when the NT can’t even guarantee title to the lease?
    They (the NT) only have 50% equity in money terms set out by the High Court in the Timber Creek case. Are you prepared to share a significant % of your gross income to native title?
    This is developing law and we have no security and that’s the way native title wants it!

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  2. Mark
    Posted October 1, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    @ Serf: Feel free to write a cheque for billions and billions of dollars to extinguish native title. If I am not mistaken it is the NT Government proposing the changes not the NT Cattlemen’s Association.

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  3. The Serf
    Posted September 29, 2019 at 9:44 pm

    “The wrangle about non-pastoral use of land – such as tourism, horticulture, agriculture and forestry – is far from resolved.”
    Well there’s one thing for sure, an amendment that may attempt to vary or increase the statutory rights of a pastoral lease as NT Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA) is advocating will never see the light of day, because the Pastoral Land Act (PLA) cannot be amended to grant freehold type rights to the grantee.
    It is illegal under the Native Title Act; you see, Federal law overrides NT law.
    There can never be resolution whilst all the so called pastoral land is a type of communal land with more than one registered owner.
    What is required is a settlement of land titles which would abolish all pastoral leases and establish land title in “exclusive possession” deeded land in Right Title and Interest, true fee simple freehold, real property to replace leases and leasehold completely.
    Native title is an allodial title, it is the title that predates the Crown’s arrival in Australia in 1788.
    It is not in a written form and encompasses everything imaginable. It is developing law as there is no definition in law for what it means as it exists in the minds of the individuals who are entitled to it and their radical legal advisors.
    They are continually looking to increase its scope and will fight to not have its boundaries defined or declared because they want it, the scope of the native title rights, unrestricted permanently.
    It has developed since Mabo to encapsulate any modern common law right, in accordance with the laws and customs of the ongoing society. That title is now the common law of Australia.
    A pastoral lease is a nothing in comparison, a statutory title (a lease) is always inferior to a common law title.
    The High Court said so in Mabo and Wik, so the NTCA is flogging a dead horse in supporting leases when we should be demanding freehold, proper freehold.
    NTCA bleats on about owning the land subject to a lease! They must have very poor legal advice because a lease is only a license and now that native title is a reality it only authorises “doings” as specified in the Native Title Act.
    A lease is not ownership and never can be. The High Court says so.
    Land currently owned and operated as leases is destined to remain an undeveloped backwater in the agricultural sense, for two reasons:
    • Why would anyone develop land they do not own and never can obtain proper [ownership] to under the present system?
    • As time goes by the political movement that is in control of land councils will continually chip away at the PLA and erode the statutory rights in favour of native title. As time passes native title will dominate. As that evolution takes effect investment will taper off and eventually disappear. The leases will become valueless.
    I believe that all broadacre development as is proposed by governments and NTCA should be boycotted until proper land title is granted. Only then should development be embarked upon.
    In a current native title case before the courts in 2019 the claimants have claimed “the ‘use, possession and control’ of all resources” and they have specified that “resources” include the improvements placed on the land by successive lessees.
    If they fail this time they can claim again and again as the Federal act gives them that right. There is no end to it if you have a lease.
    I hope everyone who reads this post realises just how precarious leases are and you should all change your rhetoric and adopt a policy of demanding freehold: It is the only title that trumps native title as long as it is exclusive possession.

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  4. Mark
    Posted September 28, 2019 at 9:10 pm

    @ Peter. That is a load of rubbish – all of it.
    Most stations don’t run stores at all for anyone let alone Aboriginal people.
    I am aware of one store which is part time filled with home cooked meals and fresh eggs and vegetables grown in the garden.
    Aboriginal people should develop their own land. They’ve had long enough. Get on with it.

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  5. Peter
    Posted September 27, 2019 at 8:19 pm

    The Cattlemen’s Association wonders why Aboriginal people don’t do more on leaseholder land.
    The fact is that the TOs are outsiders on leased land.
    They are often mere clients and customers of the cattle station owners who take advantage of them.
    On just about every station you will find a store run by the station. The price of poor quality unhealthy food in those stores is astronomical. The profits would have to be immense.
    The TOs have so little going for them and yet the association wants to remove even their right to have a say into the management of their traditional country.

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