The Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, today introduced the Defence Legislation Amendment (Woomera Prohibited Area) Bill 2013 into Parliament.
The Bill will implement the recommendations of the Hawke Review into the Woomera Prohibited Area to ensure the area’s full national security and economic potential is realised.
Consistent with the Review, Defence will remain the primary user of the Woomera Prohibited Area, which provides an essential capability for Defence testing and evaluation.
The Woomera Prohibited Area overlaps a major part of South Australia’s potential for significant mineral and energy resources. The South Australian Government has assessed that during the next decade about $35 billion worth of iron ore, gold and other minerals resources are potentially exploitable from within the Woomera Prohibited Area.
The Bill establishes a framework that provides all non-Defence users within the Woomera Prohibited Area, including the minerals resources industry, with a greater level of certainty over Defence activity in the area and access arrangements.
As recommended by the Review, the Bill expressly recognises that Indigenous landholders, pastoralists with an already established presence and existing mining operations in the Woomera Prohibited Area will continue to access and operate under their current arrangements.
The co-existence scheme established by the Bill will apply to new users of the Woomera Prohibited Area. Existing users of the Woomera Prohibited Area have the option of voluntarily joining the co-existence scheme established by these new measures in the Bill, if they so choose.
The Woomera Prohibited Area contains recognised traditional owners and significant Indigenous sites. Under the Bill, permit holders who gain access to the Woomera Prohibited Area will be required to protect these sites and comply with all relevant Native Title laws.
Indigenous groups with current statutory and access rights retain these rights. The Bill does not disturb these existing rights.
The Government has agreed, as a matter of policy, with a request from the traditional owners of parts of the Woomera Prohibited Area that no 'wet canteens' under the current Defence Regulations for the WPA will be created in lands held by the Maralinga Tjarutja or Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara traditional owners.
The Bill will be supported by Rules which will be jointly agreed by the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Resources. The Rules provide for the detailed arrangements to give effect to the Bill, including prescribing an area as the Woomera Prohibited Area and the provision for zones and exclusion windows within those zones.
The Rules will be subject to extensive consultation with users of the Woomera Prohibited Area. Stakeholders are encouraged to provide the Woomera Prohibited Area Coordination Office with their comments. All reasonable suggestions and contributions regarding the Rules will be considered by the Government.
The Rules are available at http://www.defence.gov.au/woomera. Interested parties should consider the draft rules and respond with comments by 12 July 2013.
Mr Smith’s Office: Sacha Fenton (02) 6277 7800 or 0467 784 528
Mr Gray’s Office: John Arthur (02) 6277 7930 or 0408 991 261