The creation of the Worimi Conservation Lands (WCL) was the outcome of a long and successful negotiation by the Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) and traditional Aboriginal owners with the NSW Government.
The Worimi LALC first made a number of land claims under the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1986 over Crown land at Stockton Bight in the 1990s. At that time the NSW Government also expressed its desire to add lands at Stockton Bight to the national park reserve system.
Following this, the Worimi LALC wrote to the NSW Minister for the Environment with a co-management proposal that would enable the land to be included in the national park reserve system, protect the broader community’s interests and could provide for recognition of Worimi country, land title and benefits to the local Aboriginal community.
In 2001 an agreement was reached between the NSW Government, the Worimi LALC and the Worimi Traditional Owners and Elders Group to resolve some of the land claims by creating a park that is Worimi-owned and leased back to the NSW Government to be jointly managed with the Worimi traditional owners.
The area now known as the Worimi Conservation Lands was returned to Worimi ownership on 1 February 2001
The legal framework for this arrangement is set out in the Aboriginal ownership and lease-back provisions of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act) and section 36A of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
Throughout 2005 and 2006 Worimi LALC representatives and an Aboriginal Negotiating Panel of Worimi Traditional Owners negotiated the Lease Agreement for the WCL with the Minister for the Environment. Once the lease was agreed and entered into, the land was granted to the Worimi LALC under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, and gazetted in 2007 under the NPW Act as Worimi National Park, Worimi State Conservation Area and Worimi Regional Park. The intertidal zone to mean low water mark was gazetted as part of Worimi Regional Park under Part 4 of the NPW Act, and therefore not returned to Aboriginal ownership. The Lease Agreement commits NPWS to managing the intertidal zone as part of the WCL.
The area now known as the WCL was returned to Worimi ownership on 1 February 2007, at which time the Lease Agreement for the WCL commenced. In accordance with the NPW Act, the Worimi LALC holds the title to the WCL on behalf of the registered Worimi owners.
Since the transfer of ownership to the Worimi and subsequent lease back to the NSW Government the Worimi Conservation Lands have been administered by a board or management which is responsible for the care, control and management of the park.
As part of the preparation of the WCL’s first Plan of Management the Board decided to adopt the phrase Protect, Connect, Respect, to simply symbolise the importance of the landscape to the Worimi community.