Failed station sale forces collapse

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Ruth Webb-Smith.
Camera IconRuth Webb-Smith. Credit: The Countryman.

Companies controlled by one of WA's most prominent pastoral families have collapsed after unsuccessful attempts to sell a stake in their prized Kimberley cattle station to overseas interests.

Former Pastoralists and Graziers Association vice-president Ruth Webb-Smith is bracing for the sale of the family's 189,000ha Yakka Munga Station near Broome after the ANZ Bank appointed receivers KordaMentha.

Another of the family's assets, the Carnarvon Hotel, will be sold to recover debts believed to total more than $12 million.

The heartbreaking financial collapse comes after Mrs Webb-Smith played a leading role in the campaigns against the then- Labor government's snap ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia in 2011, for land tenure reform and for lower rents on pastoral leases.

Her son Nathan has been trying to broker a deal over the past two years to attract overseas investment, including from what he described as an Indonesian Government-backed syndicate, to save the station.

Mr Webb-Smith will continue to work on a deal even though Yakka Munga will be advertised for sale through Elders as early as next week.

KordaMentha partner John Bumbak said there was every chance Yakka Munga would be sold before the start of the Kimberley wet season.

"Elders will be advertising far and wide to find buyers and given Yakka Munga's great name and great location it will attract overseas interest, we are pretty confident of that," Mr Bumbak said.

The Carnarvon Hotel is under contract for sale in a deal likely to be settled before October.

KordaMentha has appointed VNW Independent to sell Cooralya and Boologoora stations in the Gascoyne.

Cooralya and Boologoora, run by Warren Schmidt and his partner Miranda Williamson until receivers were appointed, cover 230,000ha of quality rangelands near Carnarvon.

The two stations, hit by fire, flood and a ban on live sheep exports to key markets in the Middle East in recent years, are expected to sell within months.

Mr Bumbak said banks showed strong support for the pastoral industry through some tough times but a combination of high debt and low returns pushed some businesses over the edge.

He said there was significant financial stress in the Gascoyne and banks were showing a high degree of patience with a couple of struggling stations in the Kimberley.

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