Elder slams 'back room' deal

Ngaraakwal Elder Uncle Harry, son of Aunty Millie Boyd.
Ngaraakwal Elder Uncle Harry, son of Aunty Millie Boyd. Jay Cronan

NORTH Coast Aboriginal community leaders have sought to distance themselves from a plan by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council to apply for licenses to explore for petroleum and coal seam gas in the region.

As reported in The Weekend Star, the state Land Council has obtained applications to explore for petroleum and gas at Murwillumbah, Grafton and White Cliffs in north-western NSW.

But Ngaraakwal/Ngarangwal elder Harry Boyd has called for a public inquiry into the decision, describing it as a "back room deal" which was made without consultation.

"The matter of the NSW Land Council signing-off on petrol exploration licenses means for us, all of us, the entire community, a rubber stamp on coal seam gas," Mr Boyd said.

"But my people and I speak for most of the 'blackfellas' in the Northern Rivers here, (and) we were not present at the signing of any agreements.

"We were not consulted by the Land Council ... and we have not been represented by the Land Councils for many years."

He said those who signed the "back room documents" needed to explain themselves to the people of the North Coast.

"This matter needs to be opened up for public inspection as it affects us all," he said.

"We want those people ... to explain to us what ground they are standing on.

"All of this leads to confusion for everyone and it upsets my people who still consider the ground sacred.

"The land councils are meant to protect the culture, not just do deals."

Mr Boyd said he made it clear to Federal Government representatives in April that Aboriginal people of the North Coast did not want coal seam gas.

"Our unborn spirits are in the underground water, and we consider this industry as a great offence," he said.

Mr Boyd's comments were supported by Arakwal community representative Gilbert King.

Mr King said the proposal potentially affected the traditional land of his people, but that they were not consulted in the decision.

Bundjalung elder and Gugin Guddaba Local Aboriginal Land Council deputy chairwoman Patsy Nagas also said her group were strongly opposed to the development of coal seam gas in the region.

The Tweed-Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council did not respond yesterday to a request for comment.

Topics:  coal seam gas, north coast



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