Muckaty station compensation no 'bucket of money', court told

Northern Land Council says $12m package for radioactive waste dump on Indigenous land is structured for long-term benefit

The Guardian (AAP) 6 June 2014

Protesters opposing the national radioactive waste dump proposed for Muckaty in the Northern Territory in 2011.

(Image: Alan Porritt/AAP)

An Indigenous group opposed to the dump had argued the structured nature of the compensation package may breach the law.

Compensation on offer for locating a radioactive waste dump on Indigenous land at the Northern Territory's Muckaty station was deliberately not "a bucket of money", a court has been told.

Northern Land Council lawyer Sturt Glacken told the federal court on Friday the $12m package was not a one-off payment, and was structured to deliver long-term benefits.

"Your honour would be familiar with the term ‘land rich but dirt poor’," Glacken said, adding it was not common practice to "hand out a bucket of money" to Indigenous communities.

"In the native title area it is common policy that funds generated from the use of the land must be structured to generate long-term benefits."

An Indigenous group opposed to the dump going ahead had argued the structured nature of the compensation package may breach the law, among other irregularities.

The package includes $9m to be held in a charitable trust – to pay for initiatives benefiting all Indigenous groups on Muckaty station – plus $2m for a road and $1m for educational scholarships.

"The suggestion that there is something irregular about the structure of that arrangement is, in our submission, unsustainable," Glacken told the court on Friday.

The opposing group has also argued that its joint ownership of the site was overlooked by the NLC.

There are seven Indigenous groups which own land on Muckaty station, which was selected in 2007 as the site of a national store of radioactive waste. The commonwealth wants to build a bunkered facility, within a 1km security zone, to store intermediate and low-level radioactive waste.

An Indigenous group, identified by the NLC as owning the proposed dump site, has given its consent for the project to proceed.

The case, before Justice Anthony North, will now move from Melbourne to Tennant Creek to begin taking evidence from around 40 witnesses from Monday.

Kylie and Dianne from Muckaty, meet the lawyers at Melbourne Federal Court
(Image: Counteractive - Facebook)