NT nuclear dump will 'poison' land: trial

Traditional landowners of the Warlmanpa people, Dianne Stokes (L) Kylie Sambo and arrive at the Federal Court building in Melbourne, Monday, June 2, 2014. (AAP)

The indigenous owners of Muckaty Station, which is earmarked for a nuclear waste dump, fear it will poison their land.

The indigenous owners of the Northern Territory's Muckaty Station were asked to welcome a nuclear waste dump while waving away their rights to compensation, a court has heard.

The remote site near Tennant Creek has been earmarked, since 2007, as the site of a major Commonwealth-run radioactive waste storage facility.

A seven-year bid to halt the project reached the Federal Court on Monday, where Justice Anthony North was told its indigenous owners were being short-changed.

"Not one Aboriginal person on the Muckaty Station has any right whatsoever to any money under this deed - nothing," said Ron Merkel QC, who is representing the indigenous owners.

"There's a disconnect between the broad group that benefits from this and a narrow group that is entitled to a payment."

The deal to hand over the land included a $12.2 million compensation payment, but this money was to be diverted into a charitable trust overseen by the Northern Land Council (NLC).

Mr Merkel said the trust was to fund initiatives in the broader region, not just Muckaty Station.

Two indigenous families had received payments that totalled $200,000 and this had caused a rift in the indigenous community in the area.

Mr Merkel said the waste to be stored at the site would remain dangerously radioactive for 200 years, and indigenous people he represented had a connection to the land for 50,000 years.

The indigenous owners did not want it to proceed, he said, because they believed it would affect their spiritual affiliation with - and "poison" - the land.

The court was also told proper process to determine Muckaty Station's indigenous ownership, or to obtain consent from all affected families, was not followed.

"It is an unusual structure for what is a compulsory acquisition of land," Justice North said.

Lawyers for the Commonwealth and the NLC are yet to address the court. The trial is continuing in Melbourne and there will also be hearings at Muckaty, Tennant Creek and Darwin.

Kylie Sambo, 20, of the Warlmanpa people, said it was a relief for her community to get its day in court after more than seven years of campaigning against the waste dump.

"It's a poison. We don't want it to be there," she told reporters.

"We don't want it to spoil our country because we love our land and we've been there for centuries.

"My uncle once told me, 'You may think you own the land, but in fact the land owns us'."

Muckaty Station has been selected as the preferred site to provide long-term storage for radioactive waste that is now being held at Lucas Heights and then sent to France for further processing.

Source AAP

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