Crown Lands has again been singled out as inadequately resourced to carry out basic responsibilities such as determining Aboriginal Land Claims, in the latest Auditor-General’s Report on Industry 2017.
The report said that in the past year the number of unprocessed land claims had increased by 3,077 claims – a 10.5 percent jump. The Auditor-General said that a key factor behind this was “limited resources to process and manage claims.”
NSW Labor has criticised the NSW Government for their delay over the past year in processing Aboriginal Land Claims already in the system, with the number dropping by almost a third – from 567 claims in 2015/16 to 387 in 2016/17.
The Berejiklian-Barilaro Government has also slowed the transfer of land to Land Councils – with 193 claims, worth $350 million, still to be transferred to their respective land councils.
NSW Labor said the trial of Aboriginal Land Agreements had slowed down processes and diverted resources away from the “bread and butter” issues of land claim determinations.
NSW Labor has called on the Minister for Lands Paul Toole to show leadership and address the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government’s failure on Aboriginal Land Claims.
A scathing report released by the Auditor-General last year also slammed Crown Lands after finding that the department was not properly managing the sale and leasing of Crown Land.
Crown Lands had been savaged by job cuts under the Liberal-National government.
Lack of staff had caused the Berejiklian-Barilaro Government to miss an Auditor-General deadline to establish measures to drive environmental and social outcomes in Crown Land’s future business plans and clarify accountability by July 2017 – now pushed out by one year to the fourth quarter of 2017/18.
“This is the second time in two years that Crown Lands has come in for significant criticism by the Auditor General.
“Crown Lands has been cut to pieces under the Coalition Government – to a point where it struggles to carry out its most basic functions.”
“The Minister for Lands needs to personally get involved and ensure the resources are there to remove a shameful backlog of claims.
“Aboriginal Land Councils have rights under the Land Rights Act to lodge claims – yet what we see is a Department on the go slow and watching claims mount up day by day.”