Diggers Rest tipped for El Questro lease

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
Email Cally Dupe
Roderick and Alida Woodland from Diggers Rest Station.
Camera IconRoderick and Alida Woodland from Diggers Rest Station. Credit: Chris Olney

The pastoral side of one of the East Kimberley’s most well-known tourism ventures will soon be transferred to the managers of Diggers Rest Station.

El Questro Station’s pastoral sublease, which comprises more than 700,000 acres of cattle country in the Kimberley, was put up for tender after the State Government pastoral leases expired on June 30 2015.

Alida and Roderick Woodland, who operate a neighbouring tourism venture and cattle station Diggers Rest, won the tender after making a pitch to a board of representatives from El Questro owners Delaware North.

The couple live and run cattle at Diggers Rest Station, which is small for its neck of the woods at only 4000ha and not quite 500 head of cattle.

Mr Woodland, in his 50s, is a well-known Kimberley stockman who drove his first herd of cattle more than 300km from Argyle Station to Wyndham at age 12.

His grandfather pioneered the Kimberley cattle country with the Duracks and the Quiltys.

El Questro Station manager Lori Litwack said the pastoral sublease encompassed almost all of El Questro Wilderness Park, except the popular Emma Gorge Resort and celebrity hideaway El Questro Homestead.

She said the pastoral sublease was run as a separate business to the multimillion dollar tourism venture owned by Delaware North.

“Delaware has had the pastoral lease for close to seven years in March so what we run the cattle on is called the sublease, ” Mrs Litwack said.

“At the time the lease expired, we took the opportunity to put the sublease out to tender and Diggers Rest won.

“They haven’t officially taken it on yet ... it is with the pastoral lands board at the moment, it is just being finalised.”

It was previously held by Salerno Pastoral and operated as a family venture by Kununurra locals, the Salerno family.

Salerno Pastoral obtained the sublease in 2010 and ran a herd of more than 3500 head through its family-run cattle operation.

In a statement, Salerno Pastoral said it did not apply to renew the sublease and had “removed the bulk of its cattle from El Questro”.

“Salerno Pastoral initially went into partnership with Lindsay Ward in or about 2010, in operating the ELQ pastoral sublease, ” the statement said.

“(It) then bought Lindsay Ward out in 2011 and operated the pastoral sublease up until earlier this year.

“The lease formally expired in June 2015 and Salerno Pastoral did not apply to renew the sublease.”

Diggers Rest runs a different type of tourism compared to the glitz and glam of El Questro.

It has camping areas, a couple of air-conditioned bunkhouses for up to five people each, and bush huts with spectacular views of the Cockburn Ranges.

Diggers Rest Station was contacted for comment.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails