by Robert J Lee
Four wheel drive enthusiasts, pastoralists, transport companies and tourists may soon have to pay a toll to drive on the Peninsula Development Road after the Cape York Land Council this week indicated it would pursue an Indigenous Land Use Agreement over the entire Peninsula Development Road and the Telegraph Track.
Not only has the land council laid down the gauntlet to all Australians, but its move has jeopardised the construction of a $220 million bitumen road upgrade near Weipa.
The Main Roads Department has been struggling for five weeks to deal with an intransigent land council and its representatives, who have demanded extravagant royalties for gravel and prohibited the taking of any water from permanent rivers, dams or springs.
The legality of the road network grab, according to land council sources comes via an ambit land claim (see illustration) placed over the entire Peninsula in December, covering 146,390 square kilometres.
It is the largest single land claim ever lodged in Australian history
When coupled with the 53,990 square kms already determined on the Cape, all land and inland waters of Cape York will be either determined as native title, or under claim.
Cairns News in 2003 was given a copy of a map of the Peninsula that shows a proposed Aboriginal state taking in all land north of the 16th Parallel.
This ambit claim was lodged in December, with nine token claimants, Mike Ross, Silva Blanco, Wayne Butcher (Mayor of Lockhart River), James Creek, Clarry Flinders, Jonathan Korkaktain, Philip Port, Hogan Shortjoe and Reginald Williams.
And when added to the vast areas transferred to Aboriginal ownership under the Aboriginal Land Act 1991 (QLD), all significant activity on the Cape will require the consent of the Traditional Owners.
This includes mining and other major projects.
“This means the Traditional Owners of the Cape will be the real masters of development and use of their lands,” said Riche Ah Mat, Chairman of the Cape York Land Council.
Richie Ahmat, Chairman of the Cape York Land Council and unofficial mouthpiece for Noel Pearson
“Traditional Owners can now reconnect with country, and also ensure we can use our lands so our futures are bright with economic opportunity, not blighted by continued welfare dependence.”
Meanwhile northern pastoralists, development associations, tourist bodies and other affected groups are sharpening their swords to engage the CYLC head on.
This story will be regularly updated – editor