Water for Food (WFF) is a Royalties for Regions program and is a key part of the State Government’s broader Seizing the Opportunity in Agriculture initiative. This initiative will provide a boost to regional Western Australian communities by developing and diversifying the WA agriculture and food sector. The focus of the Water for Food program is to accelerate surface and groundwater investigations and overcome barriers to investment and expansion, particularly land tenure constraints. The Department of Lands (DoL) is the lead agency for the Land Tenure Pathway for Irrigated Agriculture (LTPIA) Project, which aims to assist proponents in obtaining more secure land tenure to support high-value irrigated agriculture.
The agricultural sector is currently positioned to capitalise on the growing global demand for food and agricultural products by promoting local products, attracting new investment in agriculture, building on business skills, research and development, and creation of efficient supply chains. The Land Tenure Pathway for Irrigated Agriculture (LTPIA) is applicable to both Pastoral Leases and other Crown land.
Diversification Permits may be the best solution for many projects on Pastoral Leases, however, permits have limited application:
The DoL is required under the Land Administration Act 1997 (LAA) to obtain approval from the Minister for Mines under Section 16(3) of the Mining Act 1978 for any land disposal (leasehold or freehold).
Section 14 of the LAA requires the Minister for Lands to consult with the Local Government Authority before exercising power over Crown land within the district, and consult with any agency or body having a management order over a particular piece of Crown land if exercising power over that land (Section 12).
Other referrals and consultation are undertaken to identify other interests in the land – referrals can assist in identifying interests or proposals that are not recorded on a title; or identify regional strategies or Cabinet endorsed programs.
They are managed by:
The Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) will address native title and benefits associated with surrender or suppression of native title rights. Surrender of native title is required for freehold tenure, and either suppression or surrender of native title is required for long-term leases. Whilst the State will ensure that compensation has been dealt with and the State’s interests are protected, the commercial arrangement (Ancillary Agreement) between the Native Title Party and proponent, and the quantum of compensation are matters to be negotiated directly between those parties.
The State will be a party to the ILUA as it is the party responsible for the ‘future acts’ under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) (NTA) and it is concerned with ensuring the State’s interests are protected and liability is minimised.
As the ILUA is to be negotiated by the proponent and Native Title Parties directly in line with State requirements, it is up to these parties to determine what native title is worth on the land in question, and how native title surrender or suppression is to be compensated e.g. whether it's land, business partnership share or monetary.
LTPIA projects will be proponent-led, which means that the responsibility for approvals and negotiations lie with proponents. DoL has developed guidelines and template Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) for proponents to use when conducting their own native title negotiations.
The State will be a party to the ILUA, but will allow the proponent and Native Title Parties to conduct their own negotiations. As such, the responsibility for the timeframes will rest with the proponent. Likewise, liability for any costs, including compensation and also meeting the costs of Native Title Parties in regard to the negotiation, will be the responsibility of the proponent.
Where non-LTPIA proposals are State-led, the State would be the party conducting native title negotiations and obtaining approvals.
An Option Agreement (Option) is a contract between the proponent and the State and is not legal tenure. A memorial will be placed on the Crown title to highlight that an Option has been granted. Options provide the opportunity for proponents to test and examine their proposal, with the assurance that a lease or freehold title to the area of land can be secured if conditions within the Option are fulfilled within the three-year period.
The ILUA must be negotiated and registered during the Option period. A three-year timeframe is proposed given that ILUAs take on average 18 months to negotiate and the registration process at the National Native Title Tribunal (a requirement under the NTA) takes approximately six months. The additional year is allowed to give extra time for the ILUA negotiations which may take longer than 18 months.
Other conditions that need to be addressed during the term of the Option before the Development Lease can be issued also include, but are not limited to:
The Development Lease requires land to be developed for irrigated agriculture within the term of the lease. A Development Plan and associated milestones will need to be submitted to and approved by the Minister for Lands and appended to the lease.
Using information from other projects, four years is considered sufficient time for a proponent to meet all development milestones specified in the Development Plans.
Granting of a long-term lease or freehold tenure is subject to:
This is offered because:
The Option, Development Lease and long-term lease will all include conditions for the return of land to its prior state, that is the land will be rehabilitated by the proponent and returned to its original state - remediation provisions will be included in the leases. If the Development Lease or long-term lease is surrendered the land will revert to the Crown and become unallocated Crown land.
If the conditions of the Development Lease are not met, the lease may come to an end by expiry or forfeiture. After terminating the Development Lease, the State reserves the right to:
The State will not be liable for any costs incurred by proponents of unsuccessful projects.
Tractor image supplied by Nathan Dyer