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Working with the community

The Crown land (the Department), Far West works closely with a range of Western Division stakeholder groups, including local councils, primary producers, community organisations, Western Local Land Services, Pastoralists’ Association of West Darling and the Western Lands Advisory Council, in developing and delivering its programs. These programs include:

Legal road network project

The majority of roads and tracks in the Western Division have never been formally constituted as public roads and remain enclosed within Western Lands Leases. These tracks and roads, which are often constructed and maintained at public expense, include parts of highways, and regional and council roads.

Amendments to the Western Lands Act in 2002 provided for the withdrawal of lands from Western Lands leases for the dedication of Public Roads and the creation of restricted easements for access to landlocked properties. Unlike other areas of the state the Western Division relied on a condition on Western Lands leases to provide access across the Division.

The Far West area of the Department initiated the Legal Road Network Project to create a defined network of legal public roads and private rights of way linking cities, towns and villages, providing legal access to all Western Division properties and to places of significant public interest.

A clearly defined hierarchy of roads will allow for the promotion and development of outback tourism and provide certainty in the rights of access by landholders and the general public. This project will involve the identification and dedication of some 20,000 kilometres of public roads and is expected to take several years to finalise.

The Project team lodged its first plan in the Unincorporated Area in May 2007 and since then has prepared 62 plans representing over 13,000 kilometres of roads, which equates to about half the distance required to complete the project.

In addition to formalising public access, the Project also has the task of identifying properties that do not have frontage to the roads system and providing them with restricted easements for access to those roads. To date the project has defined some 2,000 kilometres of easements

Lease conversion programWestern lands waterway

The purchase of residential Western Lands leases is more affordable, especially for pensioners, due to a package of concessions introduced in 2005. These concessions, which took effect from 1st July, 2005 include :

  • zero interest on outstanding principal
  • instalments adjusted so that the purchase price may be paid off over time at the same instalment amount as the current lease rent
  • for pensioners who receive a rental rebate, their annual instalment is only the rebated rental amount they pay, which was capped by the Minister at $200 per annum
  • once an agreement to purchase is confirmed the amount of instalment becomes locked in for that period and is not subject to future changes in land value
  • there is no penalty for additional lump sum payments or payment in full
  • waiving of the need for a field assessment report or individual valuation assessment which have previously cost in the ranges of $100 to $300 and $250 to $400 respectively and
  • waiving of the Departments processing fee for pensioners, a saving of $210.00.

Since 2005, more than 1,900 applications have been received and off these, approximately 80% have been lodged by pensioners. To date 1,807 have been finalised which represents more than half of the residential Western Lands Leases eligible for the conversion program.

Residential Western Lands Leases on the Lightning Ridge Opal Fields

There are 1700 Mineral Claims on the Lightning Ridge Opal Fields which have residential status and each claim comprises an area of land approximately 50 by 50 metres upon which claim holders are permitted to erect a camp residence.

An Inter Departmental Working Committee (the Committee) comprising representatives from the Department of Industries (Mineral Resources), Walgett Shire Council, the Department of Primary Industries - Lands and the Department of Planning was formed to develop a scheme to provide for the issue of Torrens Titles to the owners of camps on these opal fields.

The scheme developed by the Committee provides for the grant of a title in the form of a Western Lands lease for the purpose of residence for a term of 20 years. The Department issues these leases following an application by the mineral claim holder. To date, approximately 1,109 invitations have been issued to claim holders to apply for such a lease, and from the applications received 1,055 leases have been granted.

Securing Titles for the White Cliffs Dugouts

There are 121 dugouts at White Cliffs which are used primarily for residential purposes. These dugouts are located within only a few kilometres of the centre of White Cliffs at three separate locations (in and around three hills).

All of the Dugouts, except the Underground Motel which is held as a Western Lands lease for business, are currently held under either a licence under the Crown Lands Act or a permissive occupancy granted under the former Crown Lands Consolidation Act. These tenancies are considered by financial institutions as not providing enough security against borrowed funds.

A Working Group is reviewing the different opportunities available to provide a secure title for the 120 residential dugouts at White Cliffs. The Working Group is chaired by the Department of Planning.

The scheme proposed by the Working Group will provide dugout holders with the opportunity to obtain freehold title to there dugout residence. Action is currently progressing on an amendment to the Central Darling Local Environmental Plan and the definition and dedication of access roads to the dugout sites. Both of these issues are being progressed by Central Darling Shire Council.

Management of Bottle Bend ReserveBottle Bend Reserve – local Gol Gol Primary School volunteers

Bottle Bend Reserve is located approximately 20 kilometres east of Gol Gol in far south-western NSW and includes significant areas of native vegetation, cultural heritage and frontage along the River Murray. The Reserve up until 2010 had been managed as a State Forest and had many environmental issues and challenges for the Land Administration Ministerial Corporation as Trust Managers to resolve. Issues such as acid sulphate soils, vegetation dieback, unauthorised camping, weed and feral animal infestations and fire hazard risks were immediately identified by the Trust.

The Reserve covers an area of over 1,600 hectares and is utilised for public recreation, nature conservation and rural services. Partnerships were established with the Lower-Murray Darling Catchment Management Authority, Gol Gol Primary School, Office of Environment and Heritage, NSW Office of Water and the Murray Darling Basin Commission to work on a number of initiatives within the Reserve.

Jointly funded projects with the Lower-Murray Darling CMA have enabled areas containing significant cultural heritage sites and aboriginal cultural values to be protected and the numerous tracks within the Reserve rationalised which allowed for the regeneration of Black Box and Lignum species.

Over the last three years the Trust has implemented firebreaks, weed spraying and extensive rabbit control programs in addition to school and education programs with the local Gol Gol Primary School.

Bottle Bend Reserve is a popular site for locals and visitors to the area and the re-establishment of a designated camping area within the Reserve has numerous travellers and tourists enjoying overnight stays right on the Murray River. Whilst limiting the areas of the Reserve they can use thereby protecting the fragile soils and cultural heritage values in other areas.

Bottle Bend Reserve SignageBottle Bend Reserve, Primitive Camp Site

Scientific research continues into the acid sulphate soil issues with the Murray Darling Basin Commission and NSW Office of Water and a proposed environmental watering program with the Office of Environment and Heritage will inundate about 320 hectares of Black Box floodplain and will be the most significant flooding event in twenty years.

These environmental rehabilitation projects will provide important information on how to manage the Reserve more sustainably.

Bottle Bend Reserve wetlands

Silverton Cycleway

The Silverton Tramway operated between 1887 and 1969 transporting over 42 million tons of ore, 14 million tons of freight and 2.8 million passengers between Broken Hill, Silverton and Cockburn on the SA border. It played an important part in the mining history of the Broken Hill and Silverton area and has significant links to the social and heritage history of the area. In 1970 the Silverton Tramway line became obsolete and the land comprising the tramway was gazetted as a Crown Reserve.

In early 2010, the Department commenced negotiations with the Silverton Village Committee Inc. and Broken Hill City Council about the possibility of establishing a 23 kilometre recreational cycleway on the former Tramway site and the benefits that this would provide to both the Silverton and Broken Hill communities in terms of tourism and a facility to promote healthy lifestyles.

The first stage of the Silverton Cycleway totalling 8 kilometres has been completed and is wholly located within the Silverton Common and is easily accessible from the village of Silverton. This section of the tramway utilised funds obtained from NSW Communities, Broken Hill City Council and the Silverton Village Committee and established a car parking area, levelling of the tramway surface, installation of three steel fabricated bridges and flat bridges over the numerous creek crossings.

Silverton Cycleway Bridge

The Trust was supported by a number of significant project partners such as Silverton Village Committee, Broken Hill City Council, Consolidated Mining and Civil Pty Ltd, Bobos Engineering Pty Ltd, Sulphide Street Railway Museum Reserve Trust and a heritage advisor.

The project has generated strong interest from both the Silverton and Broken Hill communities and it is hoped that Stage 2 of the project continues to be supported not only by our existing partners but also from the local business and community groups in the local area.

Western Division Range Condition Assessment Program

In 2011, the Department implemented a new project called the Western Division Range Condition Assessment Program to ensure Western Lands leasehold properties become part of a planned program of inspections.

Critical objectives for the administration of Western Lands Leases are to ensure leases are not overstocked, compliance with lease conditions, and sustainable land management. This is supported by the provisions of the Western Lands Act as they relate to lease conditions, in addition to the Objectives of the Act.

Departmental staff in the Far West area will inspect 140 properties annually throughout the Western Division under this project. Every property inspection will provide an opportunity to assess land condition, establish photopoints and undertake a compliance check of lease conditions.

Field Officer Assessing Land ConditionField Staff Assessing Land Condition

Carbon Sequestration Projects on Crown leasehold land in NSW.

The Carbon Credit (Carbon Farming Initiative) Act recently enacted by the Commonwealth provides a new framework for carbon farming and aims to give landholders and other parties’ access to domestic and international carbon markets. The Carbon Farming Initiative, administered by the Clean Energy Regulator gives wider scope and opportunity for landholders and other third parties to generate Australian Carbon Credit Units by implementing a range of approved activities on their land.

There is a strong and growing interest from many landholders to implement carbon farming proposals on Crown leasehold lands and in particular on Western Lands Leases located in far western NSW.

The Minister responsible for administering the Crown Lands Act 1989 and the Western Lands Act 1901 is considered an eligible interest holder under the Clean Energy Regulator’s requirements. Therefore, any carbon proposals under the Carbon Farming Initiative located on Crown leasehold land will require the Ministers consent before an eligible offsets project can be approved.