Thursday 25 August 2016

Yamba Port & Rail Scheme: was the NSW Upper House Inquiry into Crown Land misled?

“We service the property developers and property investors by unlocking access to the best available lands at the best available price.” [United Land Councils Ltd, website page retrieved 20 August 2016]

On 15 August 2016 four representatives of United Land Councils Ltd & United First Peoples Syndications Pty Ltd gave evidence before the NSW Legislative Council General Purpose Standing Committee No. 6 INQUIRY INTO CROWN LAND.

These are excerpts of evidence given by MICHAEL ANDERSON, Deputy Chair, United Land Councils and United First Peoples Syndications:

We advocate the idea of forming a working party with key government stakeholders through which we will secure the support of Aboriginal New South Wales. We are confident that, if we cannot achieve greater unity of Aboriginal people, we will certainly be able to deliver a large number of the most important strategic areas of New South Wales, particularly the coast and some regional locations west of the Blue Mountains. We have brought to the Committee a sample of works we are doing. We present to the Committee our introductory brochure with which we introduce ourselves to Aboriginal organisations across Australia. The brochure sets out our objectives and the benefits we bring to them as members uniting with us. In that brochure, we identify major projects such as damming the Great Katherine dam and building pipelines inland to irrigate the arid central Australia, converting it to Australia's food bowl to the world. We also discuss the project of a super port in Yamba to cater for the international trade for the next two centuries and, through that port, opening up the vast network of disused rail networks to provide a safe and efficient transportation mode. We attach a separate summary of the Yamba super port proposal because that is directly relevant to this Committee and how, working with Indigenous communities, major infrastructure can be created combining port and rail to become the leading means for distribution throughout Australia. We also attach a profile of our leading joint venture partners such Grossman, which a leading German solar, civil engineering and construction company, and the MHR Group, which is a leading Dubai pipeline and infrastructure group. One thing Arabs know is deserts and how to irrigate them. We provide a Lever arch folder that contains some of the template agreements used to effect an amicable settlement on the current Aboriginal land claims that are outstanding. We have drafted a master settlement agreement and we provide for every conceivable use of the land. We provide draft agreements for parks and conservation management, licences for Aboriginal farming and fishing use and access, Indigenous social housing models, trust funds for the provision of the next generations of Aboriginal peoples, and a series of land use agreements to promote business and industry….

Large high-tech warehousing is ideally suited to land under claim. The promise of employment and lasting careers for the younger generation on their own land is meaningful to the Aboriginal community. This same thinking applies to the Yamba super port and rail development. New regional hubs will be created around train intersections. Almost all of these potential growth areas involve Aboriginal lands or land claims.…..

As we hope to present to you, we have the backers, both in international investors and venture partners. We have the capacity and funds to change our destiny. All we ask is that we get on with it. We need no charity. We need no patronising. We ask that we plan for the future together and get the red tape out of our way…..

I sit on another national committee on water planning. New South Wales is yet to put its water plans in to the Commonwealth Government under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. I sit on those committees and I am one of the assessors on whether New South Wales is doing the right thing with their water resources plan. So we are looking at those rivers and factors that are important to us in terms of looking after them. When you talk about planning, Aboriginal people already know what can be used and what cannot be used. I can tell you that a lot of that land will not be used……

The Hon. SCOTT FARLOW: Could you come back to us on notice as to which land councils in New South Wales are part of your organisation?


Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: I would ask on notice what is your relationship like with the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council? Is it a positive relationship, have you sat down and spoken with them about this particular proposal, are you on the same page? Secondly, what do you mean by "progressive" land councils, if you could provide that on notice?

Mr PETERSON: Those that have been keen to show interest in development.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: Development-focused land councils?

Mr PETERSON: Yes, taking it from bush to something.

Mr ANDERSON: I know a lot of the land councils really want to progress and develop economic strategies, housing estates and start doing that, but unfortunately they are really tied down with a noose around their neck.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: If you could answer Mr Farlow's question and mine about the land council on notice that would good.

The CHAIR: We are also looking for the cemetery and the ports attachments, if you can table them.

Mr PETERSON: Yes. [my red bolding]

This development group was thought to have been in discussion with Des Euen and Australian Infrastructure Developments Pty Ltd (A.I.D.) for some time and, although it is possible that United Land Councils & United First Peoples Syndications may have adopted this infrastructure scheme as its own when the original Yamba Port & Rail (Y.P.R Australia Ltdunsolicited proposal was rejected by the NSW Government in April 2014, all may not be as it first appears.

A.I.D. and United First Peoples Syndications are sharing the same graphics and presenting the port proposal in the same terms.

Clarence Valley residents who attended the 2 June 2016  A.I.D.'summit' in Casino will probably recall this graphic prepared by David C Jones, Inverell, for Yamba Port and Rail aka Y.P.R Australia Ltd sister company to Australian Infrastructure Developments Pty Ltd (A.I.D.):

This is a similar graphic also prepared by David C Jones, Inverell, for Yamba Port and Rail, being used by United First Peoples Syndications:

[See:, &, Sydney, 17 May 2016]

If any sort of business relationship exists between A.I.D. and either or both of the two companies which gave evidence, then a reasonable person might expect that this would have been disclosed to the Inquiry - given formal rejection of the Yamba Port & Rail development proposal by the Baird Government.

Just as this inconvenient fact was sidestepped, so too the companies avoided telling these same committee members that both United Land Councils Limited (registered in New Zealand in July 2016) and United First Peoples Syndications Pty Ltd (registered in Australia in April 2016) share Richard John Green as sole director of both companies and, when one delves into the official corporate history, he is the only reliably identified shareholder as well.

Nor did any of those representatives who appeared before the Inquiry explain why United Land Councils appears to believe that it has a right to use Clarence Valley estuary land to; service the property developers and property investors by unlocking access to the best available lands at the best available price. Outright sales are available, but often it will be the interests of the developers or investors to enter into collaborative arrangements…..

When it came to the actual Yamba ‘mega port’ it was more than misleading to avoid mentioning to this parliamentary standing committee the fact that the Yaegl people (holding native title on Clarence River waters from just above Brushgrove right down to the river mouth at the breakwater walls) are concerned about this scheme to industrialise 27.2 per cent of the total estuary area and had refused to meet with A.I.D. in August.

That some measure of local indigenous concerns would have been known to the United Land Councils and United First Peoples Syndications can be inferred by the following statement in the Clarence Valley Independent on 24 August 2016:

Chair of the Yaegl Traditional Owners Corporation (YTOAC), Billy Walker, told the Independent that his board has not yet discussed the matters raised at the inquiry; however, he said it had met with Messrs Green and Anderson earlier this year. Mr Walker said: “From my point of view, I’d have to see what they have to say to the board before making any comment.” He said that a future meeting had not been organised.

When questioned on the subject of the peak state land council the companies avoided disclosing the obvious antipathy towards the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, evidenced by the director's opening remarks at a company event:

“We’ve got the state land council which is not helping our people in any way. You know we’ve got all the councilors sitting up in there in those big offices earning all this money and what have we got for over the last forty years….”

There was also a marked failure to mention that, along with the existing port infrastructure ie. “Goodwood Island wharf, a large shed that can accommodate vessels up to 120 metres in length, a small tug wharf and pontoon” [Port Authority of New South Wales Annual Report 2014/15], the estimated land area required to build the proposed "super port" terminals is land on which native title has been officially extinguished

Additionally, the vast majority of this land is privately-held regionally significant farmland. In other words, not Crown land (including land under claim) which is the focus of the inquiry.

Full details of the extent of the legitimate Native Title proudly and responsibly held by the Yaegl people can be found here.

When United Land Councils Ltd & United First Peoples Syndications Pty Ltd spoke of having backers who were international investors and venture partners, like A.I.D.,  they weren't telling untruths. One only has to look at what correspondence is publicly available and, the photos and videos turning up on social media of various "super port" proponents with individuals representing foreign capital, multinationals, professional company directors, corporate strategists and legal shills.

It is hard to escape the suspicion that Chinese investors and foreign/domestic infrastructure and development companies have been using both these companies (just as they use Australian Infrastructure Developments) as a way of bypassing the values of Clarence Valley communities and other vulnerable communities across Australia in order to sate their own financial avarice.

One has to wonder what the Committee Chair The Hon. Paul Green (CDP, LC Member), Deputy Chair The Hon. Lou Amato (Lib, LC Member) and members The Hon. Catherine Cusack (Lib, LC Member), The Hon. Scott Farlow (Lib, LC Member), The Hon. Daniel Mookhey (ALP, LC Member), Mr David Shoebridge (The Greens, LC Member) and The Hon. Ernest Wong (ALP, LC Member) would think of being given less than the full picture when it came to the proposed Port of Yamba overdevelopment.

The Inquiry into Crown Land reports to the NSW Parliament on 13 October 2016 and, as there is no way for local communities to correct the record, Legislative Council General Purpose Standing Committee No. 6  will make recommendations regarding Crown lands on the NSW North Coast with an imperfect understanding of the situation in the Clarence Valley.

Brief background

A full list of registered New Zealand companies in which Richard Green was/is a director and/or shareholder can be found here.

Further information on a number of these companies can be found here.

Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC), United First Peoples Syndications Pty Ltd organisation details:

It is noted that no company named First Peoples Advancement Charitable Trust of 89 Kiteroa Street, Rd 2, Cambridge appears on the New Zealand online company register as of 20 August 2016. However, on 22 April 2016 First Peoples Advancement Charity Pty Ltd was registered in NSW, with Richard John Green as sole director & company secretary and all shareholdings held by First Peoples Advancement Charitable Trust (NZ) on behalf of unidentified individuals and/or corporations.

Google Earth image of the New Zealand address of the First Peoples Advancement Charitable Trust:


Michael Kelly said...


Just by way of clarification, United first peoples/united land councils does not propose to do anything contrary to and without the consent of the NSW Government, the local community or the indigenous organisations directly affected. Our perspective is that it serves as an example of mass infrastructure projects that can be facilitated by indigenous groups uniting, including by finding appropriate international financial backers.

Variations of the Yamba super-port proposal have been around for some time, as are many infrastructure proposals that often take generations to materialise, if at all. We do not claim credit for any originality of any individual proposal. We have seen and are likely to see many more proposals for Australia's infrastructure. Our point is simply that the indigenous community, properly united and funded can assist state and national development in co-operation with the Government. None of this is to take away any proper consideration from local communities about their destinies. To the contrary, we see merit in assisting local communities with such support as they desire.

Anonymous said...

I found this article extreamly interesting and decided to look further into this matter. Your article surprised me as i enjoy reading this BLOG. I take mulitple extracts from the reading youve mentioned in relation to land claims and mass settlements and removing red tape so aboriginals in Australia have not only land but land with Value.

I have read the article now a few times and have looked at the transcript. There is no mention of that mob working with the group you link it to. Nor is there any statement that states the port is being approved, It was given as example identifying what the extent of joining forces with the aboriginal people could reflect in terms of major developments.

In fact it states that this Mob is working on the port and Cemetery Plan for Indigenous people.

I thank you for bringing this transcript to my attention and urge all readers to read it.

I see there only request is for a process to help indigenous organisations get there claims put through in a much better system. A mass Settlement system.

"We also attach a paper on cemeteries. The ever-apparent shortage of cemeteries is a widespread problem. For Aboriginal communities, their social economic position is such that the minimum of $22,000 it takes to bury a member of our mob is prohibitive. We have studied the problem and propose solutions. However, for the immediate relevance to this Committee, we hold it out as an example of why a global settlement of land claims allows the possibility, in the course of that settlement, to identify areas we jointly identify with the Government. Essentially, this is the opportunity before this Committee. A settlement can take many forms. One form it can take is that areas are mutually identified as being put aside for specific social uses, cemeteries being one. There are many: women's shelters, men's shelters, future hospitals, schools and growth centres. Rehabilitation centres are another example. Most of the Aboriginal community of New South Wales lives around the Sydney Basin. However, there is no rehabilitation centre where a Local Court can provide a sentencing option closer than Grafton. Setting aside agreed areas for rehabilitation and other social uses is a fast track for settlement.
Monday, 15 August 2016 Legislative Council Page 59
What do we need in return? Firstly, we need participation. Secondly, we need to overcome the regulatory strangulation. What land has been awarded can broadly be categorised as mostly environmental. That is bush. With zoning that is E2 or E3 at best, it is hideously cost-prohibitive to rezone and develop. In many cases, the land award is a cruel joke. The Government hands over the costs of maintaining a park to an Aboriginal land council but retains the control and authority over it so that nothing can be done on it. Through this settlement process, we believe the natural by-product could and should be planning deregulation. We abandon this claim A and we agree that claim B be reserved for a future sports arena for general public use, but in return the planning laws around claim C is changed so that we can use it for our economic purposes by changing it from a land subdivision to an industrial business park. "

clarencegirl said...

Thank you for your comment, Mr. Kelly (25 August 2016 at 13:01)

I note that United First People Syndications Pty Ltd refers to the Yamba Port and Rail scheme in its United First Peoples Syndications information pamphlet as one of two “Major Infrastructure Projects to be undertaken through unity”.

Quite frankly that language is more than highlighting this scheme as “an example of mass infrastructure projects”.

The Lower Clarence communities’ position on the Clarence River estuary is quite clear and known to state and local government:

“All the major economic sectors in the lower Clarence Valley are dependent to a considerable extent on understanding and protecting the estuary’s and floodplain’s natural processes and values…..
The outstanding threat nominated by the Maclean group was population growth and urban development, particularly where this is located close to the estuary. This is an interesting result, given that the Clarence overall is not an urbanised waterway. It may reflect the rapid changes that are occurring in Yamba, and the view in the community that further growth in this area will require major sustainability issues to be addressed. The appropriate growth rate and style of development in Yamba has been a major source of discussion for residents in the lower Clarence, especially in response to Council’s interpretation of the results of its community survey on the future of Yamba. Several other frequently nominated threats were examples of the types of threats that are associated with poorly managed urban growth that exceeds the capability of the natural system. Declining health of the estuary (from any cause) was perceived as a major threat by the lower Clarence community, acknowledging the high economic dependence on estuary health in this area.”
[DLWC, Umwelt (Australia) Pty Ltd, 2003, Clarence Estuary Management Plan: The Clarence Estuary - A Valued Asset]

Just as the current position of Yaegl traditional owners is known:

“Billy Walker The Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation had a meeting today about the proposal and strongly object…..” []

I further note that as neither Clarence Valley Council nor the Clarence River estuary townships and villages potentially most affected by a port expansion scheme so large that it will stand “for the next two centuries” [United Land Councils and United First Peoples Syndications, 15 August 2016] have approached United Land Councils and United First Peoples Syndications with a formal request for assistance with progressing such a development proposal, it is reckless of these companies to keep promoting this extensive port expansion scheme.

During the election campaign for the forthcoming 10 September 2016 Clarence Valley local government elections a number of candidates are expressing concerns about the proposed Yamba super port and some have included “No Yamba Mega Port” in their policy positions. See: as an example.

Just to make myself clear; I do not mistake the nature of those investment/development/land brokerage corporations who hold organisation positions in or are supporting United Land Councils and United First Peoples Syndications. Their like has been seen in the Northern Rivers region many times and where such corporations have sought to diminish or destroy existing aesthetic, environmental, cultural, social and economic values I and others have spoken out, actively protested and lobbied against. I will continue to do so as the need arises.

Greg Clancy Ecologist and birding guide said...

As one of the 21 candidates in the upcoming local government elections in the Clarence Valley I attended the Maclean meet the candidates night last night with 17 other candidates. The question was asked "If you support the Yamba Mega Port put up your hand?" Not one candidate's hand was raised. End of story.

Colin Clague said...

Yaegl Native Title Claim No 1 was lodged in 1996 by the late Della Walker and Joyce Clague MBE over the lower reaches of the Clarence River (essentially east of Palmers Chanel) with the clear intent of protecting perhaps the most significant element of the creation story of the Yaegl peoples.
Joyce would have me let it be known for the education of Michael Anderson and Nic Peterson in particular, who she has known from the early days of the struggle for land rights, that their promotion of the Yamba super port project is unwelcome.
From my view point as a fellow traveler in the pursuit of justice and opportunity for their peoples by these two remarkable women it is a gross affront to them that these men would promote this proposal without acknowledgement and respect.