An emotional Billy Walker receives a hug on Pilot Hill following the Native Title determination on August 31, 2017.
An emotional Billy Walker receives a hug on Pilot Hill following the Native Title determination on August 31, 2017. Clair Morton

'Keep your hands off our reef'

"THEY should have had the sense to come and talk to us first."

The proposal for a cruise ship terminal in Yamba has angered traditional owners, with Yaegl man Billy Walker saying they should have been consulted about any plans.

The Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation says at no point had the NSW State Government come to them to consult about the Future Transport 2056 Strategy, which includes a possible cruise ship terminal in Yamba.

Mr Walker, the corporation chairperson, said just because government representatives are 'higher up', it shouldn't give them the right to plan things without consulting the Yaegl people, especially after the native title determination in August of more than 90km of coastline between Woody Head and Wooli and extending 200m out to sea, which included increased protections for the Dirrungan (the reef) with a 350m buffer zone.

"Under the Native Title Act, regardless of any other acts, we've got to be contacted," Mr Walker said.

"The corporation is responsible for ensuring that the Dirrungan, one of Yaegl people's most significant sites, at the mouth of the Clarence River, is protected.

"There are also other sites of significance to the Yaegl people within the Clarence River, which would be damaged by the proposal."

Mr Walker said the Clarence River was under enough pressure as it was, whether it be commercial or other.

"We have a buffer zone on both sides of the reef. Those buffer zones were implemented as part of our credible evidence about the sea plain," he said.

Mr Walker said within that buffer zone, nothing was allowed to be dredged.

"Bigger cruises mean bigger pressure on the river," he said.

The recent Yaegl people's native title determination over sea country included increased protections for the Dirrungan, according to corporation office manager, Michael Randall.

"We have native title rights over the land and waters at the mouth of the Clarence River, including extending out to sea," he said. "We are opposed to any actions which might damage the Dirrungan. The State Government has agreed through our sea determination to protect the Dirrungan from destruction."



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