Water Journal : Water Journal July 2012
community issues refereed paper technical features 52 JULY 2012 water Methodology The development of the Vegetation Management Agreements was triggered by the need for the Council to obtain regulatory approval for building new infrastructure associated with existing water intakes within a Wet Tropics World Heritage National Park. Aboriginal cultural heritage consultation was required as part of this process (WTMA, 2005). As a result, Cultural Heritage Agreements (CHAs), under the Queensland Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003, with the Ngadjon-Jii and Wanyurr Majay traditional owner groups were developed (Figure 3). The CHAs documented the 'duty of care' requirements of the Council during the construction of the new infrastructure. The CHAs, however, went beyond duty of care requirements and included provisions that allowed the traditional owners to gain natural resource management training and opportunities to manage the vegetation at the water intakes and for Council to reduce its environmental risks associated with vegetation management of these sensitive sites. Difficulties arose in implementing the 'beyond compliance' aspects of the CHAs, as there were a number of administrative and governance barriers encountered. Through open and robust consultation with the traditional owners, three-way legally binding Vegetation Management Agreements were signed between the relevant traditional owner group, Terrain and the Council (Figure 4). Legal advice was sought in the drafting of both the CHAs and the Vegetation Management Agreements because of the importance of identifying the correct traditional owners to participate in negotiations, and because of the unique nature of the commitments on all parties. Results and Discussion The model Vegetation Management Agreement resulted from the need for a practical, reliable and ongoing means of implementing those aspects of the CHAs that related to training and vegetation management at the water intakes (Figure 5). The barriers identified early in the process of implementing the CHAs included: 1. Misunderstandings of what the projects could deliver for the partner organisations, including the fact that the projects did not provide full-time work for traditional owners; 2. Knowledge and skills gaps within both Council and traditional owner groups to fulfil vegetation management aspects of CHAs; 3. Inflexible procurement and employment requirements of Council and the need for a model that could provide for flexibility in training and capacity building; Water Agreements Also Protect Indigenous Culture The Ngadjon-Jii People of Far-North Queensland, who became native title holders in December 2007, have signed an agreement with Cairns Regional Council to ensure the delivery of high-quality water to the southern Cairns region. The neighbouring Wanyurr Majay People, who are registered native title claimants, and the Ngadjon-Jii People, signed agreements with the Council in Gordonvale on 23 April. These allow the construction of three one-megalitre reservoirs and ensure the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage. The Ngadjon-Jii People and the Council reached an agreement for the use of Majuba Creek, while the Wanyurr Majay People signed a separate agreement with the council for the use of Junction Creek, Frenchman Creek and Fishery Falls. Councillor Paul Gregory said the Ngadjon-Jii determination had been a significant step and now, as native title holders, the Ngadjon-Jii People had signed their names on an official document to allow land use. "There are some benefits for the traditional owners -- some training and management in the areas -- and they've had input into the placement of the reservoirs," Mr Gergory said. "There was a great feeling (at the signing ceremony). I've lived in Gordonvale all of my life and know a lot of the traditional owners and to see the reaction from them was pretty remarkable." Construction of the three reservoirs is expected to start in August and be completed by December. Under the agreements, the traditional owners will be on-site during construction as observers and will be involved in the rehabilitation of the sites after construction. Traditional owners will also receive some training, such as in weed management. Ernie Raymont, Ngadjon-Jii traditional elder and native title holder, welcomed the agreement and the benefits it will provide. "Cairns Regional Council has been very cooperative and understanding," he said. "(The) Council understands that we are native title holders and are liasing with us as they should." Figure 3. Publicity associated with Cultural Heritage Agreements (from: Talking Native Title, June 2009). Figure 4. Key aspects of Cultural Heritage and Vegetation Management Agreements. Cultural Heritage Duty of Care for Infrastructure Development and Environmental Duty of Care for Vegetation Management Cultural Heritage Agreements (Surveys, monitors, training, vegetation management) Cultural Surveys and Indigenous monitors for infrastructure development Vegetation Management Agreements (Training and vegetation management) Training, revegetation of project areas and vegetation management of infrastructure footprint Figure 5. Revegetation works at Majuba Creek water intake.
Water Journal August 2012
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