Pastoral lease debacle laid bare

Lands Minister Terry Redman has conceded he is not surprised by a scathing report into attempts to introduce radical changes to pastoral leases that sparked a wave of protest.

A powerful parliamentary committee found the Department of Lands bungled the lease renewal process - involving about 87 million hectares in WA - while Brendon Grylls was in charge.

The standing committee on public administration found:

·there was a major breakdown in communications within the department.

·it failed to adequately consult with lease holders, including on termination provisions, and

·that proper consultation would have saved pastoralists and taxpayers great expense.

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association raised the alarm over an August draft lease put forward by the department, saying it had the potential to destroy the industry.

Mr Grylls and his department initially rejected the claims but caved in after a meeting with the PGA in November and agreed to go back to the drawing board.

"I acknowledge and accept that the pastoral lease renewal process has not been handled well and sympathise with the anxiety and stress this process has caused pastoralists," Mr Redman said.

Time is running out to resolve the issue with all of WA's 508 pastoral leases due to expire on June 30 next year.

The PGA expects to see draft copies of two lease options - including one which mirrors the existing lease - within days.

It will review these and report back to the department before agreeing to support a series of regional forums to consult pastoralists about renewal options.

"That won't take place until we are satisfied it is a fair document," PGA spokesman Rob Gillam said. "Time is critical but the most important thing is to get it right. This is an investment in the next 40 or 50 years for pastoralists."

The West Australian

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