Mismanagement, incompetence and indifference sums up the way in which Crown land is presently dealt with in NSW.
Against this background the Parliamentary Inquiry into Crown land has today handed down its final report finding that Crown land is of vital importance to the State’s biodiversity and social fabric. It has delivered 20 recommendations for essential legislative protections that will protect Crown land and the public interest.
In a landmark recommendation the inquiry recognised the prior and continuing Aboriginal custodianship of Crown land and recommended that this be integral to its management.
Greens MP and Crown Land Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“With Crown land reforms expected to be introduced in Parliament in just weeks, this report is a blueprint for essential environmental and social considerations that must be at the forefront of any reform.
“This inquiry heard evidence from community groups from Paddington, to Ballina and the Shoalhaven about the significance of Crown land. Almost to a person they rejected the lack of public engagement that presently exists in the management of Crown land.
“The poor management of Crown land by the Baird and former Labor governments was contrasted with the intelligent, informed and passionate input we received from the public who are working across NSW to protect it.
“In a landmark recommendation the Inquiry has openly recognised the prior and continuing custodianship of Aboriginal people over the state’s Crown land.
“With Crown land reforms due in Parliament before the end of the year, the inquiry found that without an exposure draft of the laws the community will be left in the dark.
“Sunshine and openness was a key demand from the community and that must begin with a public and easily accessible register of all Crown land with full details on how the public interest is being protected.
“Only last month the Auditor General found that closed door negotiations with selected applicants are normal when it comes to signing away the rights over public land. This report confirms that needs to end.
“When 97 percent of commercial leases and half the sales of Crown land over the last four years were directly negotiated with just one player, implementing this inquiry’s recommendations have never been more important..
“If the reforms see any Crown land transferred to local councils the inquiry found that it must come with additional protections to ensure the land is retained as public land in the public interest.
“Crown land holds some of the most important environmental assets in the State and the Baird Government’s imminent reforms must ensure it is properly managed and protected.” Mr Shoebridge said.