The Pastoralists and Graziers Association has blasted the State Government for breaking an election commitment to give the industry a new lease of life through amendments to the Land Administration Act.
The PGA said pastoralists were being denied important investment opportunities because of uncertainty about the future of their leases, which are due to expire on June 30, 2015.
The leases will be extended under their existing terms, which in some cases are less than 20 years, but there are no provisions in place for what happens when they expire in the future.
PGA president Rob Gillam said pastoralists had more success in borrowing against the value of their livestock than the value of their land because of concerns about land tenure.
"There are many families who have pastoral leases as their major asset but it is a lazy asset because they are unable to borrow against it at the level they need to go forward," Mr Gillam said. "They want to get finance and they can't, so these investment opportunities are being lost."
More than 500 leases cover the 460 pastoral stations in WA which have an average size of 185,000ha.
Mr Gillam said Lands Minster Brendon Grylls had failed to act decisively despite years of lobbying by the industry.
Mr Grylls refused to respond to the criticism and referred questions about the issue to his Nationals WA colleague and parliamentary secretary Wendy Duncan.
Ms Duncan said she was just as disappointed as the PGA that the issue had not been resolved. She said it had taken longer than expected to draft an amendment Bill because of the need to consult Aboriginal groups, miners and environmentalists as well as pastoralists.
Negotiations with the Government have centred around amendments to create three types of lease for pastoral land - a traditional lease, a rangelands lease and a perpetual lease.
The PGA and the Government have discussed traditional leases being extended for uniform terms of up to 50 years on the condition the rent is up to date and the land has been maintained in a sustainable condition.
The rangelands lease would clear the way for pastoralists to use their land for business activities such as horticulture, aquaculture and tourism.
Mr Gillam said most irrigated agriculture development in the Kimberley was on freehold land because projects on pastoral leases were subject to a laborious and difficult approval process. He said the PGA supported the removal of some of that red tape through rangeland leases despite the concerns of some pastoralists about a watering down of the industry.The Government's legal advice indicates the granting of rangelands and perpetual leases would trigger assessments under the Native Title Act and that extending traditional leases might also be subject to assessment.
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