Changes to the Land Act 1994 (Qld) permit the conversion of agricultural and pastoral term leases to freehold. Government fact sheets have informed Queensland term lessees that they can proceed down the non-claimant path if their leases are not subject to a registered claim.
A non-claimant application permits the lessee to seek s24FA protection under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) ("NTA") which provides validity for the conversion of the term lease to freehold, or alternatively to proceed to a determination that native title does not exist.
If native title holders oppose the conversion to freehold of the term lease and wish to make an application for a determination of native title in response to the non-claimant application they have four months from the date of notification of the non-claimant application to become registered.
Three months or less is a totally inadequate time to prepare an application for a determination of native title in cases where there has not been any anthropology carried out, which will be most cases, and it may be unknown which group is the correct applicant. Although the non-claimant process is available under the NTA in these circumstances it works very unfairly against native title claimants which will be elaborated upon.