Sensitive land details released

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association has attacked a decision by the Freedom of Information Commissioner to release sensitive information on the viability of leases covering vast tracts of WA.

The biophysical viability ratings assigned to individual leases are part of two reports prepared for the Department of Agriculture and Food WA and then shelved by the State Government.

Some of WA's best-known pastoral leases are identified as unviable for commercial livestock production. Only 46 of 292 leases in the Southern Rangelands were assessed as able to sustain a minimum livestock-carrying capacity and only 12 of 62 leases in the Pilbara were rated as viable.

Labor lands spokesman Chris Tallentire has been pursuing the matter for the past two years. He successfully appealed to the FOI Commissioner after DAFWA issued him copies of reports edited to remove lists of individual leases and their viability rating.

In setting aside DAFWA's refusal to supply the ratings, Commissioner Sven Bluemmel rejected objections from the PGA and private interests. Mr Bluemmel also noted that Mr Tallentire had narrowed the scope of his appeal from hundreds of leases to 41 in the Pilbara.

Mr Tallentire said yesterday that he had yet to receive the new information and would make up his mind on how to use it after studying the ratings. He said taxpayers were the ultimate landlords when it came to leases covering 87 million hectares of WA due to expire on June 30.

"If it turns out some leases have biophysical viability problems, I think that needs to be looked at," he said. "Why would we require people to graze live- stock when we are told that the biophysical viability is not there on quite a number of leases?"

Mr Tallentire said some of the diversification options being pushed by the Government were exciting but had to be considered in light of all the information.

PGA president Tony Seabrook said he was disappointed the Commissioner had allowed the release of private information obtained from pastoralists' annual returns and rangelands conditioning monitoring reports.

"The PGA . . . will be meeting the Minister for Agriculture to ensure the future release of pastoralists' private and confidential information can only occur with their written consent," he said.

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

Sign up for our emails