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More than 32 million hectares of Western New South Wales’ land has been privatised by the State Government in an attempt to encourage expansion in regional areas.
Graziers with a leasehold on Crown land are now able to purchase the land for a mere 3 per cent of its unimproved value while holders of other types of leases – mainly small businesses, residential leases and pastoral leases – will be required to pay 100 per cent.
Minister for Lands and Forestry Paul Toole said the government was committed to supporting economic growth in the Western Division, and the new provisions would introduce greater flexibility for leaseholders, allowing more diverse land uses and encouraging investment.
Under the new provisions of the Crown Land Management Act 2016 42.5 per cent of New South Wales will be available for purchase to independent parties so long as they hold a valid leasehold title.
This is the biggest privatisation of NSW Crown land for 25 years.
Greens Member David Shoebridge disagrees with the privatisation and believes public land should be bought at 100 per cent of its value.
“The often wealthy graziers are able to buy their land off the government at a significantly lower cost than the general public,” he said.
Mr. Shoebridge believes the 97 per cent gap between leaseholders is unfair and could have been avoided.
“The simple answer is to keep the land public. Crown land should not be privatised to benefit those who I can only assume are Liberal contributors,” he said.
For leasehold land to be legible for purchase, it needs to be within the top four of the states soil capability classifications. Those in class five and six will require government approval while those that fall into class seven and eight will remain with the Crown.
The Western NSW region hosts 1.5 million hectares of travelling stock routes which incorporates Aboriginal heritage land and endangered habitats.
“People forget a lot of this land is indigenous heritage land, it’s often overlooked,” Mr. Shoebridge said.
Kathy Rankin, Policy Director of Rural Affairs and Economics from NSW Farmers believes it is still a difficult situation.
Ms. Rankin does, however, praise the “flexibility” of the change.
“Obviously if the farmers own the land they’re able to do more with it which is something we fully support,” she said.
The act came into effect on March 19 and after a slow start has gained traction with farmers and graziers across Western NSW.