Livingstone Shire Council Offices Yeppoon. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin
Livingstone Shire Council Offices Yeppoon. Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin

Livingstone wants to join native title proceedings

Livingstone Shire Council will apply to the Federal Court of Australia to be a participant in a native title proceeding.

Traditional Owners of the Keppel islands, the Woppaburra People, are currently working with the State on extending their native title claim and are currently having the case heard in court.

Livingstone property officer Christine MacDonald told the council’s ordinary meeting on April 20 that legal advice from Marrawah Law Pty Ltd stated a court application would need to be made if the council wanted to be a part of the proceedings.

“On that basis, our recommendation is that council resolve to make an application to join the proceeding,” Ms MacDonald said.

Marrawah Law also contacted Crown Law about adding a standardised consent determination clause relating to the council’s interests, but they responded saying they’re happy to include some draft wording in the determination but would be reluctant to represent the council’s interests in the court.

Crown Law advised it may be best for the council to join the proceedings so it could tell the court of its interests.

Map of the Woppaburra claim of the Keppel Islands.
Map of the Woppaburra claim of the Keppel Islands.

Councillor Andrea Friend asked why the matter was only brought to the table now, when the court hearing was on April 28, about eight days after the meeting.

She said the first submission from the Woppaburra people was in 2013.

Livingstone’s executive director of liveability and wellbeing Brett Bacon said they only received State Government correspondence this year.

Mayor Andy Ireland said the council was supporting the native title claim in a sense, but should join the court proceeding to protect the council’s interests.

“If any of that infrastructure that we have interest in on the island - if we’re not part of this particular process, if any of that infrastructure was taken over as part of the native title claim, we can actually be told or directed to remove that at our cost,” he said.

Cr Ireland said the last thing they wanted was a $700,000 invoice to remove things.

Councillor Glenda Mather asked if the council could have the Federal Government reimburse court costs if successful.

Mr Bacon said the council had been both successful and unsuccessful with this previously.

Council documents show the fee estimate for preparing the relevant documents to the Federal Court and representing the council in the proceeding is about $5750 to $8000, excluding GST.

Councillor Friend reminded the meeting that native title could only be made on state or unclaimed land, not freehold titles or public works.

“Applying as a respondent will give council a voice in this process,” Cr Friend said.

“We all discuss and have competing projects for council funds, however, I assure you all there is none more important than making an application to the Federal Court of Australia to join council as a respondent party to QUD16/2019 Woppaburra People proceeding.

“I know that all of you sitting at this table are genuinely kind, caring, and inclusive individuals.

“This is a very important moment in the history of the Livingstone Shire Council that we do actually become a respondent and have our say, alongside those traditional owners who we value and cherish.”

All councillors present voted in favour of the council applying to be involved in the court proceedings.

Councillors Rhodes Watson and Nigel Hutton were absent due to declared conflicts of interest.



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