Australia’s longest-running Aboriginal land claim has cleared its final hurdle, but the details left some accusing the NT Government of “subpar communication”.
- The Kenbi land claim on the Cox Peninsula was settled in 2016 after 37 years
- As part of settlement, the public was granted permit-free access to some parts of the area
- The land has now been gazetted, and maps show what areas can be accessed and fish, and what areas are off-limits
In 2016, approximately 52,000 hectares of land on the Cox Peninsula, including a number of islands and reefs in Bynoe Harbour, were granted as Aboriginal land.
This was done to settle the Kenbi land claim, which was first lodged in 1979.
As part of the settlement, the NT Government and Northern Land Council negotiated a compensation package, allowing public access to beaches and to fish areas of Cox Peninsula without a permit.
By agreement, permit-free access would be restricted in some areas and prohibited in others.
The land gazetted this week now shows exactly where the public can continue to fish, and where it cannot.
Off-limits is Quail Island, Djajalbit Islet and the northern beach of Indian Island, because they contain sacred sites.
So is Two Fella Creek and other areas in the northern Cox Peninsula, in order to protect sacred sites.
The northern Cox Peninsula area is not Aboriginal land, but it will be granted to the Kenbi Land Trust as Kenbi freehold title and become private land.
The Northern Land Council chief executive officer Joe Morrison welcomed the official gazettal, and requested people respect the traditional owners and custodians.
“This declaration will give much comfort to traditional owners and custodians and I welcome the Government’s commitment to protect sacred sites which are integral to the Northern Territory’s cultural heritage,” he said.
Land gazetted this week gives certainty as to where the public can continue to access and fish on the Cox Peninsula. (ABC News: Tristan Hooft)
Exclusion zones ‘a surprise’
Amateur Fishermen’s Association of the NT executive officer David Ciaravolo believes “a lot of people will be frustrated” by the zoning, as they were much larger than expected.
While a draft was released in 2016, based on sacred sites in the area, it was then “refined” following the NT Government’s consultations with the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority, the Northern Land Council, traditional owners and custodians.
“Where the surprise has come from is the size of some of the exclusion zones,” Mr Ciaravolo said.
“With one of the popular camping beaches on Indian Island we’ve got a situation where we thought we were going to have potentially a 150-metre exclusion zone [but] we have about three kilometres of beach that’s very popular for camping now off-limits.”
He said the fishing community was always prepared to respect the sacred areas.
But he said the Government had failed to warn the public that the exclusion zones would be larger than anticipated before bringing them into effect.
“We’re quite disappointed that today we have a situation where these areas have come into effect. It’s the first opportunity that the community has had to see the maps and understand exactly what that is, on the day that it comes into effect,” he said.
“And I just think the communication around this had been really subpar.”
He said it gave people no time to prepare, particularly given the Easter holiday next weekend.
The Chief Minister has been contacted for comment.
Opposition Leader Gary Higgins welcomed the move, saying it would give people certainty as to where they could go.
“While there has been removal of some areas that were previously accessible by everyone, there’s also now confirmation that people will be able to crab in a lot of the creeks that were a bit of a question,” he said.