An Aboriginal land claim has been granted over the beachfront crown reserve at Kingscliff known as Lot 490, putting an end to a longtime community campaign for the land to be kept as public open space for passive recreation.
The surprise state-government announcement is the latest twist to the contentious issue which for years has been a political football.
At one stage the 40-odd hectares of land just south of Kingscliff was planned to be developed into a tourist resort.
NSW lands minister Niall Blair allowed the claim under the Aboriginal Lands Rights Act 1983.
Tweed MP Geoff Provest said it will be up to the Tweed-Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council to decide on the future of the site.
The claim was granted over both lots within Lot 490, including the area proposed for tourism development.
Mr Provest said the department’s investigation of the issue ‘found the fact that the land had been vested in Government Property NSW did not affect the land being claimable under the Act as the date that the claim was lodged was prior to the land being vested’.
Two months ago, NSW Labor moved a motion in state parliament to create a regional park over Lot 490 as part of their support for the Save/Our Lot 490 group which was backed by federal Labor’s Richmond MP Justine Elliot.
But the move came under attack from NSW Greens MLC Jan Barham who said it was premature and should await the outcome of the land-rights claim.
ALP north-coast spokesperson Walt Secord had introduced the National Parks and Wildlife Amendment (Reservation of Lot 490) Bill 2015 into parliament and in his speech, Mr Secord said the bill would ‘put a stake through the white shoe brigade and the National Party which want to develop the land’.
Ms Barham in October said the ALP has ‘undermined Aboriginal land rights in the Tweed by introducing legislation that would affect a land claim.’
Lot 490 has a chequered history of development plans by the state government which controls it.
Ms Barham said it was former Labor lands minister Tony Kelly ‘who removed Tweed Shire Council as trustees of the Crown reserve in 2004 and then proposed leasing the site for a major development by Leighton Holdings, which thankfully fell through.’
Save Lot 490 spokesman and local Labor identity Ron Cooper said no-one had opposed the land claim and it was the state government that ‘seemed to have come up with a scheme to block it’.
Mr Cooper said that soon after the land claim was lodged, the government ‘secretly moved Lot 490 from the Crown Land Register to the Government Property Register’ which many thought would sink the land claim.
Mr Cooper recently told Echonetdaily that if the land claim succeeded, Lot 490 could still be developed into a resort.
’Back in the early 2000s, the land council negotiated for a golf resort on their land at Fingal. This was narrowly defeated by Land Council members in 2005,’ he said.
‘The next year the chairperson of the land council confirmed a proposal to develop 200 residential blocks. This faltered because of environmental constraints.’
This morning, Mr Cooper said ‘it will be important that the land council tell the 16,000 petitioners what they have in mind for lot 490.note:there was no claim on lot 490 until after our petition commenced-there could have been a claim on this land since 1983.’
‘The land is zoned for tourist development. Council has a draft zoning for environmental protection passed by resolution,’ Mr Cooper said.
Ms Barham welcomed Mr Provest’s announcement, saying it was ‘great news’ and that she was confident land council members would work in with the wider community over the uses of the land.
She said land council members had been committed to protecting the sensitive Fingal Head environment for years.
Echonetdaily has sought comment from the land council.
Mr Provest said the state minister for aboriginal affairs, Leslie Williams recently met with the Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council, ‘who identified the determination of Lot 490 as a key priority’.
‘This decision is welcome as the land claims process exists as a compensatory measure to provide economic, social and cultural benefit to Aboriginal Communities’, Ms Williams said.