The Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill 2008, introduced into Parliament today, allows for more flexible leases in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.
Township leases under the NT Aboriginal Land Rights Act will be able to be set from 40 to 99 years, rather than the current fixed 99 year leases.
Many Aboriginal people welcome this greater flexibility.
For example, people in the Groote Eylandt region have agreed to sign a 40 year renewable lease as a part of the Regional Partnership Agreement, paving the way for significant future development including new houses and housing upgrades.
With a more flexible approach to leases, we will be working with land holders to increase the take-up rate for long-term leasing.
This security of tenure will give the government the platform to provide better housing and infrastructure which are so desperately needed in many communities.
The Executive Director of Township Leasing, an independent statutory officeholder set up under the Land Rights Act, currently holds township leases.
However, under this bill, the Executive Director will also be able to hold title to other types of leases over Aboriginal-owned land in the Northern Territory, including over community living areas and town camps.
Again, this will provide flexibility where Aboriginal people may prefer the Executive Director to hold these leases.
The bill also provides a framework for payments to be negotiated for five year leases acquired under the Emergency Response, which will minimise the prospect of these matters needing to be resolved in the courts.
The bill also enables 13 parks and reserves claimed under the Land Rights Act in the Northern Territory to become Aboriginal land.
This follows an historic agreement in 2003 between the Northern Territory Government and traditional owners with claims to the land.
The parks and reserves will be immediately leased back to the Northern Territory Government so that they can continue to operate as national parks.
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