Monday, May 27, 2024

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HomeIssue 26Pastoralists can now diversify

Pastoralists can now diversify

Sir – The Country Liberals Government passed amendments to the Pastoral Land Act (PLA).
Pastoralists can now apply to run non-pastoral business enterprises on their land for thirty years with an option to extend for a further thirty years. Previously provisions for non-pastoral use of land under the PLA were restrictive and did not adequately allow for business diversification.
The old non-pastoral use permits were restrictive in that they were only valid for a maximum of five years and were issued to the lease holder rather than the lease itself. This provided no protection or certainty for long-term economic enterprise.
Furthermore, non-pastoral use permits will be issued to the lease not the lease holder. This will pave the way for pastoralists to diversify their business and plan for the long term.
A whole range of possibilities now exist: 4wd tracks, camping sites, forestry, food crops, aquaculture farms and the list goes on.
After the live export cattle ban many pastoralists were struggling with decreased land values and cash flow. The ban effectively ended all revenue for pastoralists who were unable to diversify their businesses.
People in the real estate industry have advised me that as this reduces risk and creates financial opportunity, pastoral lease values could increase by as much as 30%.
The 30 year permit will also make finance and investment more likely.
Willem Westra van Holthe
Minister for Land Resource Management


  1. While I appreciate that this change will enable lease holders to diversify their business opportunities, I think the public need to understand what has really happened here.
    A pastoral lease is the lowest form of land tenure, essentially we the public (or more precisely the government) owns all this Crown Land, which it does not know what to do with so it created pastoral leases to enable pastoralist to essentially run cattle.
    This type of lease has enabled people to use the land until we the people decide what to do with it. This is a lease of our vacant crown land, not the pastoralists’ land. The reason for the old, five year system for non-pastoral use applications was essentially to test the waters and if the operations / business case worked they could apply to have the portion of land rezoned, or excised off the lease and purchased as freehold land for their purpose.
    What is really bad about this decision is that only people that can now be involved with this so called development opportunity is lease holders themselves.
    If this land is suitable for other purposes other than pastoralism then it should be divided up and sold on the open market to the highest bidders, not just gifted to the existing lessee (although lessee should be properly compensated).
    An increase of 30% in property values, with the stroke of a pen, the government has assisted the lease holders with the rest of the population not entitled to participate.
    But the real reason for these changes is: If the land was to be converted to freehold to allow proper agricultural development like the rest of Australia has, it would trigger Native Title.
    So essentially the Government has side stepped Native Title law and given the pastoralists a leg up.
    Just what I would expect from this government.

  2. Good on you Willem and the CLP Government this is the kind of bold forward thinking move that we’ve been screaming at Government to make for half a century.
    The facts are that enormous portions of the Territory are tied up in vast land holdings these holdings generally only support a couple of families who make a living from grazing the natural pastures.
    In most cases the land is capable of much much more. Here on White Gums where I live, our family property is a tiny portion of the vast Owen Springs property from which it was subdivided some 60 years ago yet it has managed to support and grow a large highly productive Central Australian family.
    It’s about time others were given that chance, allowing our local economy to diversify, to develop a much broader agricultural and horticultural base.
    Not of course only restricted to those kinds of developments, Tourism comes to mind particularly in Central Australia along the breadth of the MacDonnell Ranges.
    Don’t get lost in the politics of envy! Wealth creation is a good thing for all of us, and so essential here in the centre where we have become all too reliant on the welfare dollar.
    Wealth creation brings opportunity, motivation, jobs, hopes and dreams; these are the things that drive the private sector, a chance to get ahead!
    I’m not sure that we should be messing with leasing. I think blocks under a certain size should be eligible for freehold with any right to land claim / native title extinguished. Land claim / native title is a failed experiment that simply builds parasitic bureaucracies while leaving those who were meant to benefit worse off, locked into dependency and the infighting that comes with it.
    Aboriginal families who wish to own one of these properties should have the right to access funds saved in their names by various agencies and assisted to buy property in their “own name” unencumbered by native title or land claim, having along with the rest of the community the right to completely independent ownership!
    And yes just like the rest of the community the independent self funded responsibility for the success or otherwise of their venture.
    There is no better way to kick off the development of the North than freeing up the land!
    Along with that there is no better way to lift a race from poverty than by combining employment, individual ownership self reliance and responsibility – Yeh – the right to make their own decision unhindered by the bleak unimaginative bureaucracy so often evidenced in the comment section of this publication. Onya Willem!

  3. @Dodgy
    I think your insinuations that this is designed to sidestep native title are missing the mark by some way.
    The changes to the system still tie the ‘non-pastoral use’ to the original pastoral lease and do not change the primary use, i.e. you cannot sell one without the other and the majority of income must continue to be earned by pastoral use. In the case that the non-pastoral use becomes the primary earner, the change to the primary land use would still need to be consistent with native title arrangements, this has not changed.
    What this does do is provide certainty to lenders. The previous five year terms made it very difficult to obtain finance for a ‘non-pastoral’ venture as there was no guarantee that the venture would be able to continue after five years, thus the opportunity to prove the suitability for other uses just didn’t exist.
    The new system gives pastoralists certainty to diversify their business and allow dual income streams to support the business even when the cattle market is doing it tough.


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