Land council dissent

GRAFTON Aboriginal Land Council members have expressed their "extreme disappointment" at the way their state body has consulted about mineral exploration licence applications.

In a prepared statement, members of the Grafton Ngerrie Local Aboriginal Land Council said while its members were open to capitalising on economic development opportunities to fund the socio-economic needs of the local Aboriginal community, they did so under the direction of its members as required under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

Last month the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) announced it had lodged petroleum exploration licence applications covering about half the state, including large areas in the Clarence Valley and the North Coast.

NSW Aboriginal Land Council chief executive officer Geoff Scott said the state body wanted a "seat at the table" of the resources sector.

But members of the Grafton Ngerrie Local Aboriginal Land Council (GNLALC) said bodies such as theirs were autonomous and incorporated under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983.

"Our functions are separate from NSWALC.

"NSWALC is our statutory funding body and regulator and determines its own decisions at a state level," the Grafton group's statement said.

GNLALC chairman Brett Tibbett said he wanted to clarify the group's position in relation to the NSWALC petroleum exploration licence applications.

Mr Tibbett said issues raised at a meeting last Friday night to discuss coal-seam gas exploration applications included "payments" to land councils regarding coal-seam gas and the NSWALC exploration activities.

"The GNLALC has no knowledge of these 'payments' and is disheartened by the lack of detail and information contained in these comments," he said.

"The local land council takes very seriously its commitment to foster the best interests of the Aboriginal people living within its boundaries and to uphold and advocate for the recognition of the cultural rights and responsibilities of the local Aboriginal people whose traditional lands the exploration activities will be undertaken on.

"Local Aboriginal people have had no opportunity to provide informed comment on these activities.

"Ngerrie Land Council is independent of industry and will not be influenced by any other parties in relation to coal-seam gas and exploration licences."

Topics:  mineral exploration

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