Rent relief in tough beef times

The State Government has slashed rents on the 87 million hectares of WA covered by pastoral leases in a sign of the tough times in the industry.

Rents are down an average of 41.6 per cent across the 507 leases covering almost 35 per cent of the State after the Valuer-General revised land valuations.

The rent relief comes after the Government outraged pastoralists by increasing rents on some stations in the Kimberley by more than 200 per cent in its last pricing review in 2009.

The new rates are based on falls in the value of pastoral land and reflect rising costs and the impact of the snap ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia in 2011.

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association hit out at the wild fluctuation in rents and called for the Government to refund the big rises imposed in 2009.

PGA vice-president Ellen Rowe said the system used to set the rents was flawed and created hardship and uncertainty.

"The latest decrease in rents clearly recognises the PGA's argument over the past five years that the 2009 rents were over- valued and as such placed an unnecessary financial burden on pastoralists and their livelihood," Mrs Rowe said.

"We believe the Government should refund the difference between the previous rent rate and the new rent rate."

The rent row comes at a critical time for the pastoral industry, with all leases due to expire on June 30 next year. The Government is offering pastoralists two lease options after a drawn-out battle over renewal terms and conditions.

The Valuer-General reviews pastoral lease rents every five years under the Land Administration Act.

Lands Minister Terry Redman said most leaseholders would get a big cut but a small number on the minimum fee faced increases.

"This reduction reflects the challenges facing the State's pastoral industry and should come as welcome relief to many pastoralists," Mr Redman said. "The rent review is based on current market conditions and reflects increasing costs, live export restrictions and cattle prices."

Anna Plains owner David Stoate said the annual rent on his 380,000ha station in the Kimberley jumped from about $14,000 to $72,000 in 2009 and then to $51,000 after he appealed. His latest assessment is about $30,000.

Mr Stoate, a member of the Pastoral Lands Board, said the revised rents reflected falling land values.

The West Australian

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