Land tenure in northern Australia: challenges and directions for sustainable development (16584)
Historically, the northern Australian system of land tenure was designed to expedite land settlement, secure investment in traditional agricultural development and reserve land for Indigenous and later conservation purposes. Recent decades have brought new demands. The more significant of these include the economic empowerment of Indigenous communities, diversification and development of pastoral and agricultural industries, growth in the resources sector and the realisation of economic and social potential in secure and equitable water rights. Further to this the current system faces an emerging conservation economy and the development of ecosystem service markets for carbon and biodiversity. The case for improving tenure arrangements is compelling but the challenges in doing so are significant, requiring cross-jurisdictional cooperation, research, data management and inclusive policy development. This paper reviews recent trends and the status of land tenure and related rights and responsibilities, in northern Australia. The review also includes an analysis of recent and in-progress land tenure reforms in northern jurisdictions, identifies tenure-related barriers to sustainable development and investment security in different sectors. Three avenues are proposed by which these impediments might be reduced: i) improved consistency and reduced complexity in the tenure system; ii) improved development assessment practices and, iii) improved regional and landscape-level planning to reduce future land use conflicts.