Future investment security will be undermined having dire consequences on the Territory’s economy when the NT Government introduces changes to the Non-Pastoral Permit system which will push out administrative burdens to 420 days in the Pastoral Land Act (PLA), the NT Cattlemen’s Association has warned.
The Territory’s cattle industry is a foundation of the NT economy. We are Australia’s largest live export region and each year 26 million Indonesians eat Northern Territory beef. Non-Pastoral Use permits allow for pastoral properties to diversify into other areas including crops, aquaculture, forestry and tourism.
“The NT Government and the NTCA are on a collision course if the government presses ahead with its desire to introduce a “Territory right to negotiate” as part of the Non-Pastoral Use permit process during these sittings,” NTCA President Chris Nott said.
“No other state in Australia has one and there are no laws or decisions of courts which require this to be introduced. Thousands of potential indigenous and non indigenous jobs will go begging with this type of administrative process.”
“All this change will do is undermine the diversification efforts of the entire agricultural sector which will impact on future jobs; future growth and totally undermine any hope of assisting with the Territory’s economic recovery. The last thing the Northern Territory needs right now is for an administrative process like this to be introduced.”
“The NTCA and its members have argued against this for more than 18 months but this government has failed to heed our warnings. It has failed to see what the consequences to investment will be. It will slowly strangle investment suffocating it with unnecessary red tape.”
“Nobody is going to embrace a process timeline which will at best take 220 days and at worst be 420 days if, and it is a massive if, the public servants in between don’t interfere with what is being proposed. We are going to have a red tape regulation system and no projects to regulate.”
Mr Nott said the changes to the PLA expands the current system, while not perfect, have been working without any major issues.
Native Title Holders have access rights which include visits to Sacred Sites and hunting. The current NPU permit system maintains those protections and rights so adding another layer of red tape makes no sense.
“We’ve warned the government repeatedly if it proceeds with this legislation then it will undermine future investment when it should actually be encouraging the development of the Aboriginal Land Trust estate instead,” Mr Nott said.
“The NTCA sat in a forum with the major land councils and talked about what opportunities existed for traditional owners in the cattle industry. Yet this government seems intent on undermining the positive nature of those discussions and making it harder for the only industry which hasn’t been a major casualty of the poor NT economy.”
Mr Nott said the changes to the Non-Pastoral Use permit will mean the cost of making an application will sky rocket and that rather than providing certainty, which is what legislative changes are supposed to do, it will create more litigation draining resources.
“We know from talking to other industries it costs a minimum of between $30,000 and $50,000 to negotiate with Traditional Owners through the land councils,” he said. “It is clear to us the applicant will wear those costs because the land councils do not have the resources to complete the tasks and will be looking to neutralise the costs. If there is a dispute and the native title holders don’t want the project to go ahead the Pastoral Land Board, which considers all NPU applications, will be duty bound to follow that request. This will trigger legal challenge and it will go on and on.”
Mr Nott said in March at the NTCA conference the organisation was prepared to argue the merits of its opposition to this change in a public campaign.
“At the end of a meeting with the Chief Minister Michael Gunner and Minister for Environment Eva Lawler a little over a fortnight ago it was obvious to us the time had come for that to occur,” Mr Nott said. “The Territory cannot afford to have the delays which are going to be presented through these changes. we need the jobs and we need the growth.”