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Issue #1612      September 25, 2013

Plan to regain major station

Aboriginal people in Central Australia are hoping to regain ownership of Henbury Station, a former pastoral lease which is home to one of Australia’s most controversial carbon-farming projects.

Located 230 kilometres south of Alice Springs, the 500,000 hectare property was bought for $13 million and de-stocked by RM Williams Agricultural Holdings in 2011. The move attracted $9 million funding from the federal government.

At the time, attempts by Aboriginal people to buy the property were unsuccessful. But since the parent company went into receivership this year, the property has been placed on the market, with expressions of interest closing last week.

The Central Land Council (CLC) had been negotiating with the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) to make a bid for the site and it is understood an offer has been made. CLC director David Ross said the property should be returned to its traditional owners, who had actively been seeking to regain ownership for more than 40 years.

He said the Pertame (southern Arrernte) people had a long association with the property, which had many sacred sites, with five of those sites, including three permanent waterholes, have major regional ceremonial significance.

“It’s extremely important country for them and we have nearly completed research to lodge a claim for recognition of their native title rights to secure their interests in the future,” he said.

Mr Ross said traditional owners were best placed to look after the cultural and environmental values of the property. He said traditional owners, many of whom were well versed in the important role of the pastoral industry, also saw potential for training and employment on the property.

“Given the covenants which bind the lease and impose substantial management requirements on the property, the traditional owners, with the assistance of the CLC and the ILC, are adamant that they are best placed to manage the country sustainably by developing a property management plan that balances protection with production,” Mr Ross said.

He said there had been negotiations with the current owners before the receivership. While Henbury has been operated as a cattle station, 70 percent of the property remains largely in its natural condition, with 100 kilometres of the Finke River snaking across its boundaries.

The property is marked by gorges in the north, permanent waterholes and remnant plant species. Because of its natural values, Henbury was supposed to become part of the National Reserve System and be regenerated after nearly 150 years of grazing.

Carbon credits sold from its natural regeneration were set to make it the world’s largest carbon farm.

It can only be sold because Henbury Station was never transferred from a pastoral lease to a conservation covenant, a requirement of the National Reserve System.

Koori Mail

Next article – Families, single parents in policy limbo

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