A NATIVE title issue and the plight of an Aboriginal corporation is delaying the sale of the former Sale police station.
A native title issue has arisen over the site on the South Gippsland Highway, but the body charged with dealing with such issues has been placed in special administration.
Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation, which managed native title rights and interests on behalf of the Gunaikurnai people, was placed in special administration in November after it was announced it lost $500,000 last financial year.
The determination of whether to remove native title on the police station site is preventing the sale of the land for development.
With government land unable to be sold if it is zoned for a public purpose, the Justice Department asked Wellington Shire Council to rezone the site.
The change from public use to residential growth zone came into effect in January last year.
The residential growth zoning will provide scope for the land to be used for a broad range of purposes.
Ideas for the site range from tourism and civic uses, to medium density housing.
After the planning scheme amendment came into effect, council was advised that native title applied to the land, which currently prevents it from being sold.
While the native title won’t necessarily restrict what can be done on the site, council needs to discuss intentions for it with the Aboriginal group.
Council was also told that it could take 12 months to sort through the issue to allow for the land to be sold and developed.
In March last year, then mayor Darren McCubbin wrote to Finance Minister Robin Scott to see if there was a way to speed up the process.
Mr Scott responded by saying this wasn’t possible, as it had to go through a legislated process.
Council has since been advised the process has not progressed because of the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation going into administration, with the administrator unlikely to approve the sale of the site during his term of appointment.
The special administration was due to end on May 8, but has been brought forward four days to allow for the corporation’s new directors to submit an application to return its Registered Aboriginal Party status in time for the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council’s meeting next month.
Registered Aboriginal Parties are organisations which hold decision-making responsibilities under the Aboriginal Heritage Act for protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage in a specified geographical area.
Cr Darren McCubbin said it was disappointing that more than a year after the rezoning was approved, the sale of the land was still up in the air.
“I think, as a town, we all want to see that Sale police station site cleaned up and fixed up, perhaps a new development on that, contributing to the growth and development of our town,” he said.
“That can’t occur while we have this native title question mark over the site.
“Native title is not a tricky process, it just requires that the appropriate people are brought together and that you move through system.
“It’s just unfortunate this has taken so long.”
Police moved from the site after a new police station was built on the corner of Foster and Reeve Sts in Sale.