Native title win for traditional owners in WA

The Federal Court has ruled in favour of traditional owners following a five year native title dispute with miners in the Pilbara.

In 2007 the Ngarla people were granted a native title claim covering 10,000 square kilometres of land and water in the East Pilbara.

The decision gave the Ngarla people non-exclusive rights to camp, hunt and fish as well as the right to be consulted about any plans to mine or develop pastoral land.

However, the land dispute erupted over whether a mining lease extinguished native title rights.

The Federal Court has now rules the Ngarla people still possess their native title rights when the mining is completed.

The Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation's Simon Hawkins told AAP it was a landmark decision and a significant win for the traditional owners, the Herald Sun reported. 

"What it's actually saying is that mining interests and pastoral interests are obviously leases, and tenements; they're not there forever and don't extinguish rights and interests," he said.

"So, that means when the mining activities ceases, which [they] will do at some point, the traditional rights and interests of the Ngarla people will then be able to be utilised fully again."

Hawkins said the traditional owners were disappointed the decision took five years and also hit out at the government for allowing the process to drag on, suggesting a policy change on the issue was required.

"The other issue, which is quite frustrating, is that the State Government has pursued this matter and actually caused a lot of litigation around an issue that actually should not have occurred this way," he said.

National Native Title Council chief executive Brian Wyatt called for an end to the WA government's "wasteful and unnecessary" legal action against the rights of traditional owners.

"This has now been settled in law and should give a clear message to the state government that there is no need to fight these battles in the courts, wasting government resources on unnecessary pursuits," Wyatt said.

"Native title groups in WA have worked hard to show everyone that they are not anti-development and can work with both mining companies and governments for positive outcomes on the ground".

"They are keen to protect their culture and protect their heritage but that does not detract from other activities occurring in the regions."

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