$8.4m compo plan for pastoral leases

Nick EvansThe West Australian
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The State Government has set aside $8.4 million to pay compensation to pastoralists stripped of leases, including some told 25 years ago their leases would not be renewed this year.

Yesterday’s midyear Budget review contained a $9.3 million line item in the Department of Lands budget for “compensation to eligible pastoral lessees”.

According to a Department of Lands spokesman, about $8.4 million of that amount is earmarked for compensation, with the rest to go towards demolition costs of dangerous buildings.

The compensation package is three times the size of the Government’s $2.76 million expected annual rent receipts from lessees.

In July, the Government renewed 435 of the State’s 437 pastoral leases. It also excised 38 parcels of land from 35 lease holders for “public purposes”.

The Department of Lands had previously floated the prospect of compensation for “lawful improvements” such as buildings, fences or water points on land excised from existing leases, or on those holdings not renewed. As part of the lease renewal process it asked pastoralists to list improvements to land, promising to compensate former holders their fair market value based on an assessment by the Valuer-General.

Also eligible for compensation are pastoralists who were told in 1990 their leases would not be renewed again. It is understood the bulk of the 23 pastoral stations affected by the 1990 decision are small holdings in the South West. Nine holders surrendered their leases before they expired in July, with the rest not renewed.

The size of the package surprised industry sources yesterday, given the Government has historically not offered payouts for non-renewed leases or excised land. It is unclear how much each lease holder will receive in compensation.

The Government still faces legal action by the holders of the Ningaloo Station lease, north of Coral Bay, who went to the Supreme Court this year to prevent the department from excising large sections of their lease. It is believed that matter is still to be heard by the Supreme Court.

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