The vast red terrain of the Australian outback in Far West New South Wales has been inhabited by grazier families since the first settlement in the late 19th century.
- One Far West grazier is worried that young people in her industry are being priced out of station sales
- National Parks recently acquired five Far West stations for an estimated $30m
- The Environment Minister says the purchases are helping protect biodiversity and encouraging more tourism
But in recent years, graziers hoping to expand their portfolios and begin succession planning for surrounding properties in the region have been outbid by the New South Wales government.
Lisa O’Connor lives on Nundooka Station, 150 kilometres north of Broken Hill. Her children are the sixth generation to call the land home.
After putting forward a bid for the latest sale in a syndicate of stations on the market, she said she was devastated to be priced out of the purchase.
“The young people in the industry cannot possibly afford a property at the prices the national parks are paying,” she said.
Ms O’Connor’s property borders Mount Westwood, one of the five stations recently purchased for the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) as part of the second-largest private land acquisition in the state’s history.
The other properties encompassed in the sale — Avenel, Teilta and Joulnie — along with Koonburra Station, close to Ivanhoe, are estimated to have sold for about $30 million.
A shrinking industry
Half a million hectares, or twice the size of the Australian Capital Territory, have been added to the NPWS estate since 2019.
Ms O’Connor said she was worried for the industry, adding more properties would not remain within well-established families who had hoped to work the land for future generations.
“The wool industry, the carriers, the shearers, the crutchers, the shed hands, musterers, trucking industry, fibre feed, mutton, pest management as in roo and pig shooters, it just goes on,” she said.
President of the Pastoralists’ Association of West Darling Matt Jackson said he was unsure whether the government had plans to continue purchasing more land in the region.
“They’ve reached the target of 400 or 450,000 hectares of properties in the west here, but I hear rumours maybe they want to push it further and meet the next target,” he said.
“How much further do they want to go? I’m not too sure.”
“They seem to come in and win every time but it’s pretty hard with a private entity to compete with a seemingly open chequebook of the state government.”
A native wildlife tourist spot
NSW Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean said, while the latest land purchase was to help protect Australia’s biodiversity, it would also encourage greater tourism to the outback.
“Essentially what we’re going to do is invest heavily to showcase the area with significant infrastructure by building hiking and walking trails, camping areas, so you’ll be able to spend a few days if not a few weeks out there,” he said.
“We will be adding additional resources, staffing that is, to manage these properties. We’ll obviously be managing pests and be doing fire management as well.
“The Avenel property syndicate contains the Simpson Strzelecki Dunefields, which houses important native flora and fauna in the region.
“Putting these properties in the hands of national parks will see a vast improvement in the biodiversity outcomes for these areas.”
Ms O’Connor said the community was not opposed to bolstering tourism in the region, but it could not understand why the land had to be aggregated for it.
“The pastoralists have a fair bit more knowledge of the places of interest,” she said.
“But now that knowledge of the land is being lost.”