A new committee of five Councillors will advise Central Coast Council on its participation in the NSW Government’s Crown land Negotiation Program.
The Program involves negotiations between the NSW Government, Central Coast Council, Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council over who owns and manages Crown land on the Coast.
According to a staff report to the July 9 Council meeting, Council has been participating in the Crown land Negotiation Program since December, 2017, and a staff committee has been operational since that time.
Staff recommended that Council endorsed the Central Coast Council Principles for Claiming Interests in Crown land at the meeting, but Councillors resolved to defer the decision until the next meeting.
Mayor Jane Smith said the new Committee of Councillors would ensure Council understands this complex and important program, and makes informed decisions that reflect the views of the broader community.
“This is an opportunity for Council to identify qualified State-owned land that Council can seek to manage in the best interests of our community and protect our natural environment for generations to come,” Mayor Smith said.
“We also need to ensure that if we do take on additional land ownership responsibilities from the State, that we can realistically manage them from a financial and maintenance perspective,” she said.
The committee includes a Councillor from each ward: Mayor Jane Smith from Gosford East; Councillor Kyle MacGregor from Wyong; Clr Jillian Hogan from Budgewoi; Deputy Mayor Chris Holstein from Gosford West; and, Clr Lisa Matthews from The Entrance.
The Program is already in the assessment phase on the Central Coast, which includes Council identifying Crown land that they wish to manage, ultimately a decision of the full Council.
Central Coast Council is one of several NSW councils selected to participate in the Program.
The stated purpose of the Program is to ensure that NSW Crown land is held by the most appropriate landholder to achieve the most positive social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits for the people of NSW.
“The benefit for Council is it will enable local interests and needs to be owned and managed locally,” the staff report said.
There are over 1,400 parcels of Crown land within the local negotiation area.
Under the Crown land Management Act 2016, the Minister has the power to vest Crown land in Council if it meets prescribed Local Land Criteria, and with Council’s consent.
The State will retain land that is of state significance or for the delivery of state services and infrastructure.
The criteria developed for determining state significance are land that: provides or is required for core government services and infrastructure; is part of a state or regionally significant system or network; is of high environmental value at a state or regional scale, and is required for addition to the conservation network, including land identified for future reservation; is iconic or contains an iconic asset and has or contains an item of state or heritage importance, includes beaches, coasts, estuaries and adjoining, contiguous foreshore lands, or produces or has the identified potential to produce significant income for the state.
Crown land can only be vested in Council if the Minister is satisfied that the land meets the prescribed Local Land Criteria and is therefore suitable for local use and the Council has agreed, and, if the land is claimed under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983, Darkinjung Aboriginal Land Council and NSW Aboriginal Land Council have agreed.
The Local Land Criteria include whether the land provides, or has demonstrated potential to provide, a public good, predominately for residents in the local government area, in a way that is consistent with local planning instruments.
The land use needs to be consistent with the functions of local government or could be used for activities consistent with those functions, and the land has to be managed, or as a community asset by a local council or some other body.
The Program is also using the Aboriginal Land Agreement (ALA) mechanism under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, to recognise the importance of land to Aboriginal people; and to seek to reach agreement on approximately 1,100 Aboriginal land rights claims that have been lodged in the Central Coast local government area.
“Without an ALA, it may take up to 10 years before these claims are determined,” the staff report to Council said.
Land will automatically be classified as community land unless the Minister has made a declaration that the land is to be acquired as operational land, which means it could be sold without community consultation.
The Minister is only able to make this declaration if Council satisfies the Minister that the land does not fall under one of the categories of community land in the Local Government Act.
In the current Assessment stage, each party undertakes an assessment of the Crown land in the negotiation area and indicates which Crown land they have an interest in owning and managing.
Council’s assessment will be based on the negotiation principles developed by Council staff that will be reviewed by the new Councillor Committee before they are debated at the next Council meeting.
At the end of the Assessment phase, the Crown will prepare a spreadsheet that identifies land that more than one party has claimed.
Land with overlapping interests will be divided up into negotiation areas, which will be the subject of detailed negotiations in the Negotiation phase.
Land with no or only one interested party may be retained by the Crown or vested in that party.
In May, Councillors were provided with a briefing on the Project by the NSW Department of Industry, Crown lands, and Mary-Ellen Wallace, Special Counsel, Central Coast Council.
An introductory half day tour is being arranged by the Crown on July 19 to visit a sample of sites.
Representatives of all parties (including staff, board members and councillors on the committee) will be invited.
According to the staff report, an internal Council stakeholder working group has held widespread consultation with stakeholders to identify Council assets, uses and interests in Crown land.
Consultation with third parties will be managed by the Crown.
A realistic timeframe to complete negotiations and enter into agreements is expected to be June 30, 2019.
Media release, Jul 9
Central Coast Council media
Agenda item 8.1, Jul 9
Central Coast Council ordinary meeting
Jackie Pearson, journalist