Warning on second pastoral lease draft

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

Pastoralists will get their long-awaited lease renewal options this week despite growing industry concern about the legal and financial impact of proposed changes.

Lands Minister Terry Redman said two draft renewal options had been mailed out to more than 500 pastoralists after extensive industry consultation.

"Pastoralists have been offered a choice of two renewal options," he said. "The first option is renewal of a lease which references the terms and conditions of the existing pastoral lease granted under the repealed Land Act 1933.

"The second renewal option is a new lease document that explains the terms and conditions in modern language with greater clarity and updated references to the current Land Administration Act 1997."

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The Pastoralists and Graziers Association warned the second option had the potential to turn the 87 million ha of WA covered by leases into a legal minefield.

The PGA fears the changes will trigger costly provisions in the Native Title Act, increase the risk of leases being terminated and expose pastoralists higher costs.

Leading mining companies also have concerns about the impact on exploration.

Time is running out to resolve the issue with all leases due to expire on June 30 next year.

It is understood peak advisory body the Pastoral Lands Board wrote to the State Government last week to raise concerns about the second option.

Representatives from Mr Redman's office and the Department of Lands will attend a PGA meeting in Broome today to discuss the draft renewal options.

PGA past president Rob Gillam said pastoralists should not sign the second option without seeking independent legal advice.

Mr Gillam said new insurance and indemnity clauses reduced pastoralists' rights at law.

The Department of Lands is under intense pressure over the lease renewals after a powerful parliamentary committee found it had bungled the process.

Mr Redman said there would be seven community forums to discuss the lease options. He said pastoralists had until July 11 to provide feedback which would be used to finalise the leases. The first forum is at the Overland Motel in Kalgoorlie on Tuesday.

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