Almost all beaches in Australia are on Crown land.
Almost all beaches in Australia are on Crown land. Contributed

Warnings of Crown land fire sale as laws push through

THE Baird Government's "most significant reform to the management of Crown lands in a generation" has been slammed as a sneaky attempt to appease developers.

Eight existing laws have been combined under a single piece of legislation after the Crown Lands Management Bill passed both houses of NSW Parliament.

It gives the Lands Minister, currently Niall Blair, power to give control of Crown land to other government agencies if deemed in the public interest.

Almost all beaches fall on Crown land, raising concerns the reforms could lead to their management being handed to other government agencies, including local councils.

Mr Blair said the change would herald a new era of stringent public consultation. He said, for the first time, it enshrined in legislation the importance of Crown land to Aboriginal people.

"For the first time in the history of the Crown land legislation, consulting with local communities will be mandatory prior to any major decision that significantly changes the public's use and enjoyment of Crown land," he said.

"This is about putting the community back at the heart of decisions about their land - and it is reform of which this government is immensely proud."

He said local governments would be empowered to make decisions in the best interests of their local communities, but would still require environmental, social, cultural, heritage and economic considerations to be taken into account in decision making.

Labor was not buying it.

Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said the bill made it easier "to sell swathes of public land to developers and private interests".

"This bill even contains a sneaky clause that enables the Government, without considering the public interest, to transfer public land to other government agencies at the stroke of a pen - automatically robbing it of its status as Crown land," he said.

Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith was equally scathing, and sought to have the bill postponed until next year.

"Once Crown land is vested to local councils, the Crown Lands Management Act will no longer apply and new owners are essentially free to do what they like with the land," she said.

"We have serious concerns that this will see large swathes of public land sold off, leased and overdeveloped."

Ms Smith stressed Crown Lands covered almost half the state, and to push through such an immense piece of legislation without proper scrutiny was dangerous.

"It is safe to say that two weeks is proving to be not enough time for Parliament to engage with the (bill)," she said.

"The reforms seem like a genuine first step, ensuring that public land is properly managed for the public benefit.

"But with Crown land encompassing 42% of land across the State, we must ensure that the bill is more than a good start."

The new law is expected to come into play in 2018.


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