COMMUNITY groups could be forced out of buildings on Crown land without laws to protect their rights, the member for Albury Greg Aplin has said.
But the NSW opposition believed the law in question was “an overreach” that gave the government “unprecedented power” over land use.
A recent court ruling — the Goomallee Claim that determined a grazing licence on a Crown public reserve was unlawful — sparked the debate.
The government quickly drafted an amendment to the Crown Land Act, fearing the decision, taken to its extreme, could force organisations such as the CWA, scout and guides and sports clubs, out of their meeting rooms.
The amendment passed the lower house last week but has stalled in the upper house. Labor and the Greens believe commercial businesses could take advantage and indigenous groups may be denied land rights claims.
But Mr Aplin said the aim of the amendment was to protect the existing tenure of such groups as the Holbrook RSL and the Pistol Club at Hamilton Valley.
He said the amendment should also allow groups to set up in future.
“I would hate to think community groups were thwarted,” he said.
The amendment allows “secondary interests” — such as leases, permits and travelling stock — on Crown land as long as it doesn’t “materially harm” the land or affect its use.
It also prevents legal challenges.
Labor upper house member Mick Veitch said the changes went “way beyond” the Goomallee Claim, and could allow the government to sell Crown land without the normal processes.
“The Crown land at stake in parts of the state has significant value, so that’s a major concern,” he said.
“We’ve been told community groups are not at risk by the Goomallee decision, so why is this bill being pushed now?
“It gives the minister unprecedented powers.”
But Mr Aplin said the opposition was “clutching at straws” and the government was surprised anyone could object to the amendment.
“If the opposition believes there’s a loophole, why not introduce an amendment that addresses that?” he said.