A management plan that will impact approximately 42 per cent, or around 34 million hectares of NSW, has been announced by the NSW government.
At 28 pages, Crown land 2031 says it will establish ‘a strategic framework to encourage investment, facilitate innovative new uses and rethink the way in which Crown land contributes to the economy’.
The plan accompanies the Crown Land Management Act 2016.
So what is Crown land?
Page 25 reads, ‘NSW is Aboriginal land. Following European settlement, colonial and then successive state governments asserted ownership over the land and proceeded to survey and allocate land, and to record and guarantee tenures. This created freehold property rights for settlers.
‘The remainder of the land became Crown land, held in public trust. At the same time, infrastructure was progressively installed on Crown land, including community halls, Crown roads, showgrounds, sports fields and parks which remain integral to community life in NSW’.
The plan says that ‘national parks and state forests are not considered Crown land’.
A top priority, according to Crown land 2031, is to ‘Accelerate economic progress in regional and rural NSW’, along with ‘Accelerate the realisation of Aboriginal land rights and native title in partnership with Aboriginal people, protect cultural heritage on Crown land and protect environmental assets, improve and expand green space and build climate change resilience’.
Under Crown land 2031, the government says management will ‘grow in size and capability’.
Local NSW MP, Tamara Smith (Greens), told The Echo, ‘When I see the concepts of “public ownership” and “economic potential” in the same sentence, alarm bells start to ring. A community garden or surf club on Crown land brings countless benefits to a community that may not deliver a purely economic bottom line’.
‘Does this mean that priority for leasing Crown land will be given to organisations that can deliver a purely economic return? Does this mean that peppercorn rents will disappear for community organisations in favour of high rent paying business style tenants?
‘When I see this kind of rhetoric from the LNP, I ask myself, “how are things working now?”
‘The Department of Crown Land has been gutted, within an inch of its life, and is chronically under resourced, which means getting responses from them typically takes six months. How does that department deliver such agility and modernity, we may well ask?
‘The privatisation of our caravan parks was couched in similar glowing terms; around tourism and economic benefits. But what we have seen from the privatisation of holiday parks on Crown land is loss of public land and loss of community say about those public assets.
‘Aboriginal communities without native title are often the last folk to be advised or consulted about Crown land assets. With that kind of track record the lofty aim of “advancing Aboriginal interests” surely needs some detailed intention to consult with Aboriginal communities?’
Ms Smith adds, ‘As the NSW Greens tourism spokesperson, I will certainly be keeping an eye on the detail of this policy announcement. The LNP have a track record of privatising public assets and calling it “asset recycling”.’