$1 billion land fund claims

by Chris Griffith
Published 13 Oct 1996 in The Sunday Mail


my face


P LANS are underway for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders to acquire Queensland land purchased using the federal government's $1 billion land fund.

The Indigeneous Land Corporation, charged with making the purchases, has released its strategy plan for its Queensland buy-backs.

The corporation has received plans to buy land in the Mount Isa, Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton, Roma, and Brisbane regions over the next six years.

There is a proposal to convert some land currently leased as Deeds of Grant in Trust (DOGITs) to traditional ownership, and a proposal to discuss buying land on mainland Australia for Torres Strait Islanders.

But the corporation is not prepared to telegraph its punches by detailing exactly what land it will buy. To do so, argue officials, would cause prices to escalate.

And purchases will not be made annually or at any regular time - rather as land is needed when market prices are optimal.

The buy-back plan is part of the former Keating government's three-stage response to the historic Mabo High Court decision in 1993, and is supported by the Howard government.

The first stage involved allowing Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders to lodge claims for native title.

But for indigenous people not living on their traditional lands and ineligible for native title, the government provided the buy-back option.

In its Queensland strategy plan, the corporation has identified 121 parcels of land, some 42 million sq km already held by Queensland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders who comprise 2.36 percent of the state's population.

It says in central Queensland, coastal development "may affect land prices significantly and the size and types of land parcels which could be targeted in the coastal regions".

It says of Brisbane: "land which remains unspoilt and with high cultural value is rare and the stock of available options is rapidly diminishing".

"Priority land types identified include undeveloped land, where achievable, and land which will allow control and access of heritage sites and natural resources."

The Indigenous Land Corporation has met with most Queensland land councils and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation (ATSIC) regional councils - the exception, according to the report, was the Carpentaria Land Council, chaired by Murrandoo Yanner.

From 1995-97, the government will make around $25 million per annum directly available for land purchases Australia-wide.

Around $45 million will be provided each year from 1997-2001.

The government also will deposit $76 million (indexed) annually in a land fund which will remain untouched until 2001.

From 2001 onwards, the interest from an estimated $631 million in the land fund will finance land purchases.

                (millions of dollars .. to be indexed)

            Land fund    Available     Available       Total
            investment   to ILC for    to ATSIC for
                         buy-backs     buy-backs

1994-1995       175          25                         200
1995-1996        76          24           21            121
1996-1997        76          24           21            121
1997-1998        76          45                         121
1998-1999        76          45                         121
1999-2000        76          45                         121
2000-2001        76          45                         121
TOTAL          $631m       $253m         $42m          $926m

From 2001 onwards, interest from the $631m land fund will finance future purchases.