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Alice Springs to Darwin Railway Agreement

Date: 1 September 1998
Sub Category:Framework Agreement | Section 21 Agreement (Native Title Act)
State/Country:Northern Territory, Australia
1410 km stretch of land, 100 metres wide, between Alice Springs and Darwin.
  • Subject Matter: | Cultural Heritage | Economic Development | Employment and Training | Native Title | Environmental Heritage
    Summary Information:
    Negotiations in relation to the Alice Springs to Darwin Railway Agreement (the Agreement) were finalised between the Northern Territory Government and the Central and Northern Land Councils (the Land Councils) on 18 September 1998 (see Minister for Lands, Planning and Environment v Risk and Others NT LMT 13 at pp.22). The negotiations represented the first serious attempt by the Territory Government to negotiate with native title holders under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) (NTA).
    The Railway line passes through the regions of the two Land Councils, and crosses 27 pastoral leases (about 80% of the land), 11 Aboriginal Land Trust areas, held under the provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth) (ALRA), a number of stock routes and areas of vacant Crown land, much of this being under claim under the ALRA.
    In order to build the railway the Territory Government required title to a 100 metre wide railway corridor and access to a 400 metre wide construction corridor together with fill (borrow) from the construction corridor and rock from selected quarries outside the construction corridor.
    Detailed Information:
    The Agreement was negotiated under the right to negotiate provisions and, where applicable, section 21 of the original NTA - prior to its amendment in October 1998. Negotiations were also conducted under the ALRA, since almost 20 percent of the land required was land held by Aboriginal Land Trusts under the ALRA.

    The provisions of the ALRA meant that the Territory Government had to enter into agreement with the Aboriginal Land Trusts (ALTs) before they could acquire any land for the railway corridor, and they sought to negotiate long term lease agreements with the ALTs. However in respect to the remainder of the land, they sought to acquire all native title rights and interests and, in January 1998, issued notices of proposed acquisition under section 29 of the NTA.

    The Land Councils negotiated directly with the Territory Government and their agent the AustralAsia Railway Corporation, which managed the railway process. They were not able to deal directly with the consortium to whom the Territory Government intended to grant ownership of the railway land (and who were to build and run the railway), since the consortium had not yet been chosen. However agreement was reached whereby the bidding consortia were to meet with the Land Councils and were to adopt certain principles in their proposals for addressing economic and social matters.

    The Agreement was reached in stages, with first the development of a fairly detailed framework agreement and a final agreement that was built upon the framework agreement. The framework agreement provided for an assessment to be undertaken of the proposed impact of the railway upon Aboriginal communities and their way of life. Each agreement was presented to native title holders/traditional owners for careful scrutiny through a series of regional meetings.

    Two issues in particular ensured the fairly speedy conclusion of the Agreement:
  • Sacred site clearance. This was a paramount concern and the process for sacred site clearance commenced well in advance of the Territory Government's acquisition process. Although the issue was not totally finalised until a later stage, early consideration of this issue substantially reduced the time required for negotiations.
  • The unified Aboriginal negotiating position that saw the Land Councils as the only representatives for native title holders, with no divisions and no competing interests.

    The consortium finally chosen, in June 1999, was the Asia Pacific Transport Consortium (APTC) that was awarded a 50-year build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) concession for the line, which will mainly be used for freight to and from the deepwater port at Darwin. APTC has awarded a number of contracts associated with the project: ADrail, for design and construction; Gennesee & Wyoming for train operations, P&O for port operations and BJB (a Barclay Mowlem, John Holland and Brown & Root joint venture) for infrastructure maintenance.
  • Outcomes:
    Major outcomes of the final agreement are:
    · Instead of the Territory Government acquiring and extinguishing all native title rights and interests to the land they required, they finally agreed to the grant of a long term lease of 198 years for ‘railway purposes’ under the Crown Lands Act 1992 (NT). This means that native title is not extinguished forever, and the land cannot be used for non-railway purposes without further agreement.
    · Compensation for leasehold acquisition, which is not based merely on land value but includes elements for cultural and spiritual values.
    · Compensation for extraction of materials for construction of the railway, and restoration of the extraction areas.
    · Funding for a community development fund.
    · The Territory Government agreed to carry out works that minimised or ameliorated impacts identified by the railway impact assessment.
    · Agreement that the chosen consortium to own, build and run the railway would address economic and social issues including: employment and training of Aboriginal people; opportunities for Aboriginal people to provide goods and services to the project; Aboriginal input into the design of the project to minimise impacts; appropriate cross cultural training; employment of Aboriginal liaison officers during the construction phase; and ongoing consultation with Aboriginal communities and the Land Councils.

    The total amount of compensation is in the region of $7 million which is not only in the way of distribution of monetary benefits. After consultation some groups elected for financial distribution but the Larrakia people received an area of land for the construction of a cultural centre, the Kungarakan and Warai people gained control of certain sacred sites and the Wagaman people have gained joint management of Umbrawarra Gorge.

    Related Entries

  • Indigenous Employment and Training Agreement between ADrail Joint Venture Company and the Northern Land Council
  • Memorandum of Understanding between the Northern Land Council and the Territory Construction Association
  • FreightLink Indigenous Scholarships
  • Alice Springs to Darwin Corridor Agreement
  • Residential Development Agreement between the Larrakia and the Northern Territory Government
  • Organisation
  • Northern Territory of Australia - Signatory
  • Northern Land Council - Signatory
  • Central Land Council - Signatory
  • AustralAsia Railway Corporation
  • ADrail Joint Venture Company
  • Halliburton/Kellogg Brown & Root
  • Barclay Mowlem
  • John Holland Group
  • MacMahon Holdings
  • Genesee & Wyoming Inc.
  • P&O Group
  • Asia Pacific Transport Consortium
  • Austrak NT
  • Event
  • Upper Daly Land Transfer
  • Legislation
  • Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (Cth)
  • Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)
  • AustralAsia Railway Corporation Act 1996 (NT)
  • Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Act 2002 (Cth)
  • People
  • Gungarakany People
  • Warrai People
  • Wagaman People
  • Larrakia People

  • Documents

    Alice Springs to Darwin Railway Agreement Map - ( Image | PDF | Thumbnail)


    Framework Agreement | Section 21 Agreement (Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)) (Australia)

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