Kerry Stokes seeks beef stake with Kimberley station sublease plan

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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Kerry Stokes has entered into exclusive negotiations to sublease two Kimberley cattle stations owned by the financially stricken Bunuba Dawangarri Aboriginal Corporation.

The deal would see Mr Stokes’ Australian Capital Equity sublease the 80,000ha Fairfield and 405,000ha Leopold Downs stations, near Fitzroy Crossing.

Mr Stokes owned Leopold in the 1980s with business partner Peter Murray.

Most of Leopold and parts of Fairfield were damaged in a fire that this month affected four Kimberley cattle stations.

It is understood ACE was one of three parties invited to put a submission to the Bunuba people on Tuesday but had since entered into exclusive negotiations.

“At the moment you have some of the most run-down, yet beautiful stations in the Kimberley. There is a real opportunity for ACE with its capital and past history of turning stations around to get involved while providing a cash injection for the Bunuba people,” a source familiar with the deal told WestBusiness.

There is expected to be a benefit for the local people in terms of employment, construction and traineeships.

The length of the sublease is yet to be finalised but could span 20 years.

In a similar arrangement, ACE subleased part of the 300,000ha Charnley River Station in the Kimberley from the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. Under that groundbreaking arrangement, ACE will fence off an area to exclude cattle from river systems and areas important for endangered species.

Leopold Downs and Fairfield are close to ACE-owned stations Napier Downs and Mount House. The size of ACE’s cattle empire would increase to more than one million hectares once the deal with the Bunuba people goes through.

Mr Stokes has previously said the key to unlocking the potential of the northern cattle industry was better use of water, applying the latest soil and plant science and land tenure reform.

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