Nature conservation

Parks, reserves and protected areas

Worimi Conservation Lands Joint Management Agreement

In February 2007, the NSW Government granted Crown lands at Stockton Bight to the Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) to be leased back to the Government as the Worimi Conservation Lands.

This was the result of negotiations between the Minister for the Environment and the local Worimi Aboriginal community. This is the first time in NSW that a land claim has been resolved through agreement to grant lands to a local Aboriginal community by the creation of a publicly accessible conservation reserve.

Throughout the joint management negotiations, the local Worimi Aboriginal community were committed to an agreement that would 'provide for the protection of the cultural and natural heritage values of the Stockton Bight landscape, while allowing for safe and sustainable recreational and commercial use of the area by the broader community'.

As a result, public access to the Stockton Bight area will be maintained, and a wide variety of sustainable recreational and commercial uses will be permitted on the new Worimi Conservation Lands. 

Why the Worimi Conservation Lands were dedicated

In 1995 the NSW Government announced its intention to create a new national park at Stockton Bight. The NSW Government, the Worimi LALC and the Worimi Traditional Owners and Elders Group reached agreement in 2001 to resolve land claims over the area through the establishment of a joint management agreement under Part 4A of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act). Part 4A provides for the negotiation of a lease-back agreement as the basis for co-managing the lands.

Following two years of formal negotiations, the land was granted to the Worimi LALC on behalf of the registered Aboriginal owners, and leased back to the NSW Government to be joint managed as the Worimi Conservation Lands.

Similar Aboriginal joint managed agreements have been negotiated in a number of locations throughout NSW, including the Mutawintji National Park, Nature Reserve and Historic Site in western NSW; Mt Grenfell Historic Site near Cobar in western NSW; and Gulaga and Biamanga national parks on the south coast.

The steps involved in negotiating the joint management agreement

Negotiations at Stockton Bight began with a series of land claims under the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 by the Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC). In 2001, agreement to enter into the lease negotiations was confirmed in a memorandum of understanding between the NSW Government, Worimi LALC and the Worimi Traditional Owners and Elders Group. The agreement also provided for the granting of some smaller areas at Stockton Bight to the Worimi LALC.

Negotiations to achieve joint management at Stockton Bight involve a number of key steps:

Board of management

The NPW Act requires a board of management to manage each area subject to a lease-back agreement. The Act also sets out the board's representation, requirements and functions.

The board of management will be responsible for the care, control and management of the lands, including preparing a plan of management — a legal document that provides management direction for the next five to ten years. The preparation of the plan of management will involve extensive consultation with stakeholders and the broader community.

The board of management will have a majority of registered Aboriginal owners, as well as representatives of the Worimi LALC, Port Stephens Council, conservation interests, neighbours and OEH.

A majority of the members of the board of management must be chosen from the Register of Aboriginal Owners.  This register is established and kept by the Registrar, Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 pursuant to Part 9 of the ALR Act.

Office of the Registrar, Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW)

With OEH's support, the board will be responsible for the care, control and management of the lands, including the preparation of a plan of management.

Interim management arrangements have been established until the board of management is appointed to ensure the reserves are managed in partnership with the Worimi Aboriginal Community and according to the NPW Act.

Future management of the area will provide protection of the natural and cultural values of the Stockton Bight landscape, while providing access for the general public and promoting safe and sustainable recreational/commercial use.

Caring for the Worimi Conservation Lands

Please help conserve our natural and cultural heritage:

  • all flora, fauna, Aboriginal sites and historic sites in the Worimi Conservation Lands are protected
  • vehicles are not permitted to drive through or over vegetation or Aboriginal middens/shell accumulations
  • wildfires can destroy lives and property so observe all fire bans and guard against risk of fire, especially during the bushfire danger period (September to March)
  • dogs are only permitted in the regional park and must be on a lead at all times
  • no firearms or other weapons are permitted
  • take your rubbish with you.

More information

Page last updated: 11 December 2017