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Northern Land Council slams police minister's claims and government response on violence in Nauiyu/Daly River

Giovanni Torre -

The Northern Land Council has slammed claims by the Territory's police minister, Brent Potter that unresolved land claims are driving violence and arson in Nauiyu/Daly River.

The Council said the Minister was "covering up the government's own failure to keep Territorians safe" and that "there is no evidence of the violence and arson being linked to any land claim matters".

On Tuesday the NLC said the NT government is responsible for upholding law and order across the Territory and Minister Potter's "attempt to abrogate these responsibilities" is "disappointing".

NLC chair Matthew Ryan said that last week the Council "made several phone calls to alert the police and local ministers after community members reached out to the NLC, afraid of what might be about to happen".

"Our alert was not taken seriously enough, and over the 48 hours that followed, people were terrorised, injured, and houses destroyed," he said.

"The response was just not good enough. What is the point of a tactical unit if it's not being used?

"A few weeks prior, Countrymen saw the TRG instantly mobilised for car theft, but when Territorians living in Daly River first needed protection, they were nowhere to be seen. They were asking me: 'why is there this doubled standard?'."

The Council noted in a statement that while the government is campaigning that community safety is a priority in the lead-up to the Territory election, "this must extend beyond Darwin".

The NLC, one of four land councils in the Territory, said it has been working to support its constituents in the Daly region, including by notifying police of reports of imminent gang violence in Nauiyu/Daly River on Tuesday morning, April 30, as per Mr Ryan's comments.

The Council said it urged the government "to take the matter seriously and swiftly send the Territory Response Group" to prevent the situation escalating, but later heard from "terrorised Daly River locals" that not enough was being done on the ground to ensure their safety.

"Residents were seriously injured, and reported five houses being damaged by fire, as well as a further two ransacked," the Council said, noting that comparisons were drawn between the inadequate response in their area to the large-scale police response to the environmental protests at Lee Point, Darwin.

The NLC said it heard reports of Daly River families evacuating themselves to Adelaide River where they were forced to camp out, seeking the protection of a greater police contingent in that township.

The NLC's Darwin, Daly, Wagait Regional Council members had been meeting in Wadeye, to discuss local concerns and determine priorities when the Nauiyu-Daly River unrest erupted last week.

The federal and territory Governments' increased investment in housing was highlighted as "long-awaited and highly crucial", with overcrowding underpinning myriad issues in their communities.

"To have homes so quickly, irreparably destroyed and many families subsequently displaced was of grave concern to the Council. Millions of dollars of damage has been caused and any rebuilding or repairs will take months, if not years to be completed, further compounding the distress," the Council said on Tuesday.

Minister Potter told National Indigenous Times on Wednesday morning that "extra police are on the ground now and six arrests have been made so far".

"Police will continue to search for offenders and work tirelessly to make arrests to make the community safer," he said.

"Peppimenarti is receiving a brand new police station as a part of the Northern Territory Government's push to maintain peace in the Daly River Region, however this is not a problem which can be solved by police alone. That's why police and other agencies are working with local community leaders to resolve these issues.

"Police are working hard to stop the Jovi Boys from causing harm in this community – and police have my full support to do so.

"I have always said that we need to work together to improve community safety in the Daly River Region – and that means police, Northern Territory Government agencies and local community leaders working together closely to solve these issues."

Mr Ryan said the Minister's "blame game" is "not helping our people or any Territorians".

"Mr Bruce is just adding fuel with his out-of-touch comments. Why mislead and trivialise these issues that need serious attention?" he said, referring to Hospitality NT chief executive Alex Bruce saying "I'd like to see the mongrels cop it in the eye with some of the spray, put it on TikTok" while supporting the addition of pepper spray to the kits of private security guards.

"NT leaders need to come together with community leaders in good faith to find solutions," Mr Ryan said.

"The NLC is already waiting at that table… I travelled to Daly River on Thursday and met with stakeholders, alongside the police, which was a positive step. But it's crucial that this not be another talk-fest that gets sidelined – we need a concrete plan and action to follow."

Note: This report was updated on May 8 to include the Minister's response.

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