A Kimberley Aboriginal corporation says it’s excited about a partnership with Pardoo Beef Corporation (PBC) that will see the outback Wagyu empire sublease two highly sought-after cattle stations from traditional owners in Western Australia’s Fitzroy Valley. 

Key points:

  • Pardoo Beef Corporation has signed a 20-year deal with traditional owners to sublease the Yarranggi and Yuwa pastoral leases 
  • The stations formerly known as  Leopold Downs and Fairfield have been highly sought after by big pastoral companies
  • Bunuba Dawangarri Aboriginal Corporation hope the partnership will create long-term jobs for Indigenous people

The deal struck with Bunuba Dawangarri Aboriginal Corporation (BDAS) will see PBC take on a 20-year sublease over a portion of the Yarranggi and Yuwa pastoral leases near Fitzroy Crossing, formerly known as Leopold Downs and Fairfield Station.

Over the past decade, the properties have been highly sought after by big players such as Australian Agricultural Company and billionaire Kerry Stokes’s Australian Capital Equity, which owns neighbouring stations Napier Downs and Mount House.

Finding the right partner

While previous negotiations to sublease the properties fizzled out, BDAC director Joe Ross said this partnership ended up being a better fit for traditional owners.

“We’ve made big efforts now with the Pardoo Beef Corporation to alleviate any of the traditional owners’ concerns and that’s been done by a long consultation process over the last 18 months.

“It’s about making sure that the traditional owners, who have strong cultural connections to those two properties, don’t feel like they’re missing out in the future and also [have] access onto the property for law and culture purposes.”

Head and shoulders shot of a man.

Bunuba Dawangarri Aboriginal Corporation director Joe Ross hopes the deal will create long-term jobs for traditional owners.(

ABC Kimberley: Vanessa Mills

)

The sublease deal comes off the back of an agistment agreement established with PBC in late 2019, which has seen more than 5,000 head of Wagyu moved to graze on the Yarranggi and Yuwa leases.

Under the agreement, about 100,000 hectares of unproductive cattle grazing land on Yarranggi has been excised for the Fitzroy National Park.

Last November, Bunuba traditional owners signed an Indigenous Land Use agreement for that land with the state government.

Creating jobs on country

Mr Ross said he hoped both the partnership with PBC and the WA government would create more job and training opportunities for traditional owners on country.

“These properties that Bunuba own, they’re large, they’re very productive and arable lands for beef production and with minimal infrastructure,” he said.

“The only way Bunuba in any sense can provide those opportunities was to be able to have a large economic driver, a corporate entity like Pardoo.

“The creation of national parks in partnership with the WA government … means we also have monetary resources to employ more rangers, and capital funds to build our small businesses and tourism assets.”

Cattle in long grass.

Leopold Downs and Fairfield Station are now called their traditional names Yarranggi and Yuwa.(

ABC Rural: Matt Brann

)

Pardoo grows outback Wagyu empire

PBC have been contacted for comment but ABC understands cattle raised on Bunuba country would be finished at Pardoo Station, near Port Hedland.

The 200,000-hectare property, which operates 20 irrigation pivots, is where Singaporean businessman Bruce Cheung hopes to create a $3 billion premium Wagyu beef industry.

Since buying the property in 2015, he has spent $75 million transforming Pardoo’s marginal grazing country into what now looks like a lush green dairy farm.

A man sits with cattle and red dirt behind him.

Pardoo Beef Corporation’s Bruce Cheung says his Australian-grown Wagyu beef is finding a niche market in China.(

Supplied: Pardoo Beef Corporation

)

Mr Cheung surprised many when he decided to run highly prized Japanese Wagyu rather than Brahman and Brahman cross cattle common to the region.

PBC’s meat processing partner, Bunbury-based V&V Walsh, is one of the only Australian meat exporters with a licence to export chilled beef products directly to China.

However, Mr Cheung has expressed aspirations to establish a northern feedlot and processing facility and bring pastoralists from across the Kimberley and Pilbara on the journey to create a marketable product called Kimbara.

An aerial view of green paddocks surrounded by red dirt below a blue sky.

There are 20 centre-pivot irrigators at Pardoo Station used to grow fodder to fatten Wagyu cattle.(

Supplied: Pardoo Beef Corporation 

)

Forging long-term partnerships

Mr Ross said he was excited that Bunuba people would play a part in this ambitious Wagyu vision for the region.

“Traditional owners have been in the pastoral industry from the 1990s and early 1900s, right through past the ration days and the acquisition of these properties … so they have a long history,” he said.

A photo of wagyu cattle eating grass during the day at a farm.

Wagyu is a high-value Japanese breed of cattle with a marbled beef that can fetch up to $500 a kilogram.(

ABC Rural: James Liveris

)

The Pilbara Wagyu giant also has an existing partnership with the Mowanjum Aboriginal Community near Derby, where it agists several hundred cattle at the award-winning Indigenous irrigation project.

PBC aims to grow its herd to more than 100,000 cattle by 2035.

Pardoo Beef expands its outback Wagyu empire
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