A Queensland town is at war over the transfer of a large piece of land to Aboriginal ownership without consultation, which critics say could set a risky precedent.
Residents of Toobeah, a town of just 300 people located about four hours southwest of Brisbane, have spoken out after recently learning of the move.
The city’s mayor and former LNP state opposition leader Lawrence Springborg is in the middle of the deal that would see the state government donate the 220-hectare Toobeah Reserve to the Bigambul Aboriginal Corporation (BAC).
Michael Offerdahl, whose family runs the Toobeah Hotel Motel, said he was concerned that BAC could “lock up” the preserve that is the city’s main recreation center and contains popular walking trails and swimming spots.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson also weighed in, with the Queensland senator writing to the state government and Goondiwindi Regional Council demanding the transfer be stopped until locals are properly consulted.
The remote southern Queensland town of Toobeah (pictured) has become the center of a controversial debate in the state over the transfer of land to traditional owners.
Local business owner Michael Offerdahl (third from right) said he was concerned that locals would have to ask permission to enter the reserve and that this could set a precedent for other areas.
10pm Toobeah Reserve is located directly north of the city and has served as the main recreational center since its inception.
Offerdahl, whose business is on the reserve directly north of the town centre, said any local or visitor to the town would have to ask the Aboriginal corporation for permission to go walking or swimming there.
“We are the first bastion of defense for this; if we do it now, we will set an insane precedent,” Offerdahl said. courier mail.
“At first I was just concerned about the growth of our town – we need 20 more houses to support cotton and dryland farmers and they could be built on that land – but now my biggest fear is for other parts of Queensland.”
Senator Hanson said the reserve was the center of the Toobeah community for more than 100 years and residents had paid to keep it in good condition over that period.
“More than half of Australia already has native title, and another 12 per cent is under claim… at some point Australians are going to have to say enough is enough,” he said.
Springborg said that even though Offerdahl only recently learned of the plan, community consultation is underway and state government officials are scheduled to travel to the city on March 4 to discuss it further.
Goondiwindi mayor Lawrence Springborg said the transfer of the land to the Aboriginal corporation is under the control of the state government, while One Nation leader Pauline Hanson wrote to both the council and the state government calling for it to be stopped. the process.
Local Aboriginal elders perform a smoking ceremony at Toobeah Reserve
According to the council’s website, it is ‘trustee of several parcels of Queensland Government land at Toobeah, known locally as Toobeah Reserve; This includes the city’s local water infrastructure and transport route network.’
As ‘sole property manager’ of the reserve, the council has no rights to the land; It is the state government that is responsible for any change of use or ownership.
“The Queensland Government has been assessing options for the Toobeah Reserve to be transferred to the local traditional owners group for approximately four years.”
A post about the plan shared on the council’s Facebook page last week sparked backlash and comments were disabled due to the council being “unable to resources to moderate comments”.
BAC chief executive Justin Saunders spoke at a town meeting on Monday about the plan and said far from closing the reserve, the Aboriginal owners would want to transform it into a cultural and ecotourism destination.
He sought to ease community concerns by assuring residents that they would be able to use the reserve just as they had previously done for many decades.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted BAC, Toobeah Hotel Motel and the Queensland Government for comment.