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Nguiu (Tiwi Islands) 99-Year Lease

Date: 30 August 2007
Sub Category:Lease
Place:Nguiu, Tiwi Islands
State/Country:Northern Territory, Australia
Nguiu is a township on the south-eastern section of Bathurst Island, one of the Tiwi Islands in the Arafura Sea. It is located about 70 kilometres north of Darwin (see TILG).
  • Consideration for entering into agreement - Commonwealth Government ($6 million in total)
  • Proposed contribution - Commonwealth Government (In-kind)
  • Subject Matter: | Economic Development | Health and Community Services | Land Transaction
    Summary Information:
    The 99-year lease agreement ('the Agreement') over Nguiu was agreed to by the Tiwi Land Trust (on behalf of traditional owners of Nguiu) and the Executive Director of Township Leasing (on behalf of the Commonwealth Government) on 30 August 2007. It followed a Memorandum of Understanding between the parties in May 2007.
    Detailed Information:
    Structure of the lease

    The lease is granted under s 19A of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) (see Altman in Living Black 2007). The section was part of an amendment to the Act introduced in August 2006.

    The lease that is the subject of the Agreement is a head lease over the township of Nguiu. The Tiwi Land Trust has thus granted a head lease to the Executive Director of Township Leasing, a Commonwealth statutory officer. The term of the head lease is 99 years, to run until August 2106.

    Under the terms of the head lease, the Executive Director of Township Leasing also has the power to grant sub-leases. According to a FaCSIA fact sheet (2007), subleases will go to:
  • government;
  • housing organisations;
  • individuals and families wanting to buy or build their own homes;
  • businesses; and
  • community organisations.

    In an Opinion piece in The Age on 10 October 2007, Patrick Dodson described 99-year leases such as in this Agreement as follows:

    'the Government will hold the head lease for 99 years and the Tiwi traditional owners will have to seek sub-leases from the lessor of their traditional lands.'

    He contrasted this with the proposed lease under the Memorandum of Understanding between Galarrwuy Yunupingu and the Commonwealth of Australia, which 'leaves the Gumatj holding the head lease and the Crown obtaining the necessary subleases'.


    The Commonwealth Government agrees to provide:
  • $5 million to cover the first 15 years of the lease;
  • $1 million for health initiatives;
  • construction of 25 new houses within the next two years; and
  • repairs and maintenance of existing houses.

    Negotiation, MOU and Injunction Application

    The time from the start of negotiations to the signing was just over 3 years (Middletons 2007).

    A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed in May 2007, to negotiate and confirm the terms of the lease.

    Following this, two injunctions were filed in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in an attempt to stop the signing of the Agreement (Middletons 2007). The first was withdrawn, and in the second, Adam Kerinauia - a traditional owner - claimed that the Tiwi Land Council used bribes and forgery in relation to the signing of the MOU (see The West 2007). The Supreme Court found on 13 August 2007 that there was insufficient evidence to support these claims. The applicant was ordered to pay the costs of the trial.

  • Related Entries

  • Nguiu (Tiwi Islands) Memorandum of Understanding for a 99-Year Lease - Subsequent
  • Memorandum of Understanding between Galarrwuy Yunupingu and the Commonwealth of Australia
  • Organisation
  • Commonwealth of Australia - Signatory
  • Tiwi Land Trust - Signatory
  • Tiwi Enterprises Pty Ltd
  • Legislation
  • Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth)

  • Glossary


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