New lease of life for stations

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
East Kimberley property Moola Bulla.
Camera IconEast Kimberley property Moola Bulla.

The State Government appears to have avoided a land management nightmare when all pastoral leases covering about 87 million hectares of WA expire tomorrow.

By the end of last week all but two of 437 pastoral stations were set to have leases renewed.

There had been fears millions of hectares would revert to unallocated crown land because station owners were not compliant with the terms of existing leases.

Almost 100 leases were ineligible for renewal six months ago because of non-compliance issues related to rent arrears, failure to make vermin control payments and land management notices, including overstocking.

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The Department of Lands has bent over backwards to help stations get over the line.

It is responsible for managing leases that revert to unallocated crown land, which already makes up 37 per cent of WA. The responsibilities include making sure station owners move off the land and destocking.

Industry experts said a surge in prices for cattle, sheep and wool had put value back into some properties and encouraged station owners to make sure they qualified for lease renewal.

Pastoral Lands Board requirements on stocking levels and a management plan were linked to the collapse of a deal late last year that would have seen Gina Rinehart purchase four Kimberley cattle stations owned by South African interests.

The SAWA Pastoral Company said yesterday that its leases over Moola Bulla, Mt Amhurst, Beefwood Park and Shamrock Station were being renewed.

Moola Bulla manager Nico Botha said the company had done everything asked of it by WA authorities.

Mr Botha said cattle prices were strong and SAWA had no plans to sell its stations, which cover more one million hectares.

The Government remains in dispute with 89-year-old Billie Lefroy and her family over the future of Ningaloo Station. It claims Ningaloo, home to Mrs Lefroy, her daughter Jane and son-in-law Phil Kendrick, is not eligible for lease renewal.

The family have vowed to fight to save their station, where they run sheep and goats as well as one of WA best loved camping areas, from what their thousands of supporters see as a Government land grab.

87mThe number of hectares in WA covered by pastoral leases.

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