Pastoralists seek to modernise 'outdated' Act

Longer pastoral leases sought in Act review

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The state's pastoralists are keen to see changes to the 'outdated' SA Pastoral Act and believe policies from other states could be replicated in SA.

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SECURITY NEEDED: Marla beef producer Gillian Fennell says present lease arrangements are restrictive, and would like to see longer tenures for pastoralists.

SECURITY NEEDED: Marla beef producer Gillian Fennell says present lease arrangements are restrictive, and would like to see longer tenures for pastoralists.

SA pastoralists are urged to have their say about the future management of leases that determine how they can run their businesses.

Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone has released an 11-page discussion paper seeking feedback on updating the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act 1989.

He recognises the act is "outdated" and says the government is keen to grow livestock activities in the 410,000-square kilometre area in the north of the state, while maintaining Crown land in good condition.

"Since the act was established, there has been major change in farming practices and the adoption of technology on-farm, so this review is a much-needed step in realising greater opportunities for the pastoral lands in SA," Mr Whetstone said.

Flinders Ranges pastoralist Frances Frahn is among those who believe an overhaul of the act is needed.

She and husband Luke are the lessees of 33,000-hectare Holowiliena Station, which has been in the Warwick family since 1852.

The problem with today's system is if (property) inspections fall behind, it (leases) can drop down to a lot less than 42 years before they are topped back up. - Frances Frahn, Holowiliena Station via Cradock

Ms Frahn is calling for an extension of the 42-year leases to enable young farmers to demonstrate a more long-term future to financiers.

About a decade ago, when they took over the sheep station, the lease was down to just 18 years, which she said was concerning.

"The problem with today's system is if (property) inspections fall behind, it (leases) can drop down to a lot less than 42 years before they are topped back up," she said.

"I'm keen to hear more about how the WA model works, which enables up to 100-year tenures and where all leases are simultaneously updated."

Ms Frahn said the public access routes were another grey area that needed addressing, with pastoralists often finding people driving unannounced through their properties.

It is also important to clear up whose responsibility the maintenance of these roads are and any liability of vehicle accidents.

"We need to explore ways the act can ensure biosecurity, personal safety and property security, while also giving the public options to get out and explore the rangelands," she said.

Ms Frahn is not surprised the paper has raised the possibility of combining the SA Pastoral Board and SA Dog Fence Board but is adamant the two should remain separate entities.

RELATED:Orroroo's Geoff Power to head up Dog Fence board

"People may think the Dog Fence is a pastoral responsibility but it is the responsibility of every sheep farmer in the state, it is the reason the sheep industry survives," she said.

Ms Frahn said the act itself was not the "be all and end all", with changes to administration even more important.

"Most pastoralists are fairly environmentally conscious, so it can be disheartening to see a few people not follow the rules but nothing is done about it," she said.

Feedback on the paper closes on September 13.

Outdated leases hold SA's livestock industry back

FAR North pastoralist Gillian Fennell says the state's pastoral land is some of the "most underutilised" in SA due to "outdated legislation".

The Livestock SA board member from Lambina Station, via Marla, wants to see more long-term security around the tenure of pastoral leases, which she says would also deliver better environmental outcomes.

If you have to go to the bank, the first question they ask is 'when was your lease last renewed?' which can affect your access to capital. - Gillian Fennell, Lambina Station, via Marla

She would also like to see physical inspections every 14 years replaced by rolling renewals and self-reporting similar to what already occurs in WA and NSW.

"Forty-two years (for a lease) is not a long time if you are buying a pastoral property worth $2 million to $10m, especially when we have had 20 of the driest years in the past 100," she said.

"If you have to go to the bank, the first question they ask is 'when was your lease last renewed?' which can affect your access to capital."

Ms Fennell says it is also time to move from the maximum stocking rating on leases to a total grazing pressure threshold, giving more flexibility for pastoralists to adjust their numbers based on the season, but also the authority to keep invasive native species under control.

"There still needs to be a lot of thought go into this, because if someone says we need to destock but there are thousands of kangaroos on the place, it is not going to down well," she said.

Ms Fennell would also like a revised Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act 1989 to be more all-encompassing, rather than pastoralists having to go to many different government departments to solve issues.

"For example, the Native Vegetation Act 1991 classifies all grazing as land clearing so if you want to put in a new watering point to be more sustainable and profitable you have to go to the Native Vegetation Council, which can take months," she said.

"I know cases where pastoralists have been refused because there was no evidence of grazing there in the past, whereas their lease says they can depasture livestock on the whole of their lease."

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