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Court rejects indigenous action over dump

The Federal Court has dismissed a bid by a group of native title holders to influence and potentially block the construction of a nuclear waste dump on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula.

The Barngarla people had argued that a poll of residents planned by the Kimba District Council, to gauge local support for the dump, was unlawful because it excluded native title holders.

Two sites near the town have been short-listed as potential locations for a low-level radioactive waste storage facility, while a third is near the Flinders Ranges town of Hawker.

The federal government is yet to reveal its preferred location but following the court ruling said it was mindful of the need to reach a decision.

It has also vowed to continue to consult with all stakeholders as it thanked local communities for their patience.

The Barngarla had claimed their exclusion from the Kimba ballot was based on their Aboriginality and would impair their human rights or fundamental freedoms as native title owners.

But on Friday, Justice Richard White ruled that the council's actions did not contravene racial discrimination laws.

Justice White found the council had not excluded the Barngarla because of their Aboriginality but had reasonably restricted the ballot to members of the Kimba community who had the right to elect council members.

"An enlargement of the franchise for the purpose of the ballot would have required a number of subjective judgments about the extent of the enlargement and raised issues concerning the proper identification of those within the expanded franchise," the judge said.

The federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science said it would study the judgment in detail before advising communities on the next steps in the selection process.

Jeff Baldock, who has nominated his Kimba farming property as one of the possible sites, welcomed the ruling and urged the government to move forward.

He said the project had good support in the local community and was a "once in a lifetime opportunity to secure Kimba's future."

Mr Baldock said the waste facility would potentially provide jobs and much-needed revenue for the region, which was beginning to lose businesses and services, for hundreds of years.

But the Greens said the court decision had sidelined traditional owners and called for an independent expert panel to take over selection of the waste site.

"The entire process has been badly botched from the start, with community concerns ignored and the Adnyamathanha and Barngarla people sidelined," South Australian Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

"South Australia is not going to just roll over and be the country's dumping ground. This plan would lock generations of South Australians to nuclear waste."

The Kimba council had been about to distribute ballot papers for a vote on the dump when the ballot was halted by a South Australian Supreme Court injunction last year.

The council said on Friday it would make a comprehensive statement on the court judgment in the coming days and would continue to liaise with the federal government on the conduct of the ballot.

© AAP 2019

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