Mines Minister George Cash said native title procedures had changed in relation to issuing mining, land and petroleum titles in Western Australia.
Mr Cash said the change in Government policy was the result of a recent Federal Court decision by Justice O'Loughlin on the acceptance of the Miriuwung Gajerrong claim in the Kimberley region. Justice O'Loughlin found that the right to negotiate should apply from when the claim was lodged, rather than when it was accepted.
"Native title claims are now registered when they are lodged and the right to negotiate applies immediately, even if the claim is later shown to have no basis," he said.
"The tribunal has also altered its policy on accepting claims and has recently begun to receive claims over pastoral leasehold, without an Aboriginal access reservation and other forms of land tenure, where previously claims were not accepted.
"These changes have forced the Government to adjust its policy to ensure the validity and certainty of titles and this will unfortunately cause further delays in granting mining, petroleum and land titles."
Mr Cash said the Government would now refer all new titles through the process of the Native Title Act, except where the land involved was subject to a freehold or exclusive leasehold title. Crown land reserved for special purposes, like schools and community facilities, would also be exempt.
"This does not alter the State Government's strong belief that native title rights have been extinguished by previous valid mining and pastoral leases with or without an Aboriginal access reservation," the Minister said.
"The Government will continue to seek to have these important issues resolved by the courts or through legislative action.
"However, during the interim the procedures of the Native Title Act will be complied with to ensure the certainty of titles being granted."
Media contact: Mark Thompson 222 9595