Native Title claims cast doubt over arts centre

Artwork from the National Native Title TribunalArtwork from the National Native Title Tribunal

Unresolved Native Title and Land Title claims could see Crown Land on the Gosford Waterfront frozen for years, making it impossible to build a Regional Performing Arts Centre (RPAC) on the NSW Government’s preferred site in the foreseeable future.

According to the Central Coast Council, a Native Title Claim and a Land Title Claim over Crown Land on the Gosford Waterfront are a factor being considered by the new Council in its attempts to determine the best location for the RPAC. The Member for Terrigal, Mr Adam Crouch, recently confi rmed that the NSW Government’s $12 million funding commitment to the RPAC was conditional on the facility being located on Gosford City Park (also known as Poppy Park).

The park is located on the corner of Dane Dve and Vaughan Ave, Gosford, directly across Vaughan Ave from the former Gosford Public School site. Mr Crouch said the NSW Government was not willing to change its mind about the location of the RPAC. He said the new Central Coast Council now had responsibility for advancing the project. If the Central Coast Council decided on another site for the Centre, it would be reliant on $10 million promised in Federal Government funding and its own funds to deliver the project which has been sought by the community for decades. It is understood that Gosford City Park is Crown Land that is managed by Central Coast Council. Ms Lynne Hamilton, Planning and Development Manager for the Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council, said the organisation lodged a Land Claim under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act with NSW Crown Land in 2014 over vacant Crown Land on the Gosford Waterfront.

Ms Hamilton said the claim did not cover all Crown Land on the waterfront and Coast Community News has asked Crown Land NSW to confirm that the claim does cover Gosford City Park. Ms Hamilton said such claims can take “a long, long time to resolve. “We still have land claims unresolved from the 1990s,” she said. According to the National Native Title Tribunal’s Register of Native Title Claims, the Awabakal and Guringai People have made a Native Title claim for the right to hunt, gather and fi sh on lands spanning from Wahroonga in Sydney’s North to Maitland. The claim was lodged in 2013 and appears to apply to Crown Land on the Gosford Waterfront including Gosford City Park. “It also takes a very long time for a Native Title claim to be resolved,” Ms Hamilton from Darkinjung LALC said. “And the Federal Court is taking its time resolving this one, but there is nothing stopping the Central Coast Council from saying it has been affected by the matter,” she said. Meanwhile, according to Ms Hamilton, the Awabakal and Guringai People Native Title claim means the subject land is frozen until the matter is resolved.

This casts a cloud over whether the Central Coast Community will ever receive the promised NSW Government funding for the RPAC. If the Native Title and the Land Title claims are successful, future use of any Crown Land subject to those claims will need to be negotiated with the Native Title holders. Coast Community News asked Central Coast Council for an update on its progress with the development of the Centre. A written statement from the Council said: “There has long been a proposal to put a Regional Performing Arts Centre (RPAC) on the Gosford Waterfront on the Gosford City Park site. “Council is evaluating this option but notes there is a Native Title claim over the land as well as a Land Title claim which needs to be considered.” This is the fi rst time that the Central Coast Council or the former Gosford Council have referred to the Native and Land Title claims as a factor in the location of the RPAC, at least in the past 18 months of coverage by Coast Community News.

As previously reported in Coast Community News, the former Gosford City Council had talked to a number of developers to gauge interest in including the Regional Performing Arts Centre in their own development plans in locations other than Gosford City Park. The owners of the Mariners Plaza development (on the corner of Mann St and Donnison St) and the Waterside Development (corner of Mann St and Georgiana Tce) both said they had submitted plans to Council indicating how a smaller version of a Performing Arts Centre could have been included in their development designs. At this stage, both the security of the NSW Government’s $12 million pledge and the location of the RPAC remain unresolved.

Media statement, Oct 17, 2016 Central Coast Council media Interview, Oct 18, 2016 Lynne Hamilton, Darkinjung LALC Website, Oct 18, 2016 Register of Native Title Claim Details, NC2013/002 Awabakal and Guringai People