TWO of WA's biggest pastoral companies fronted a State Administrative Tribunal hearing last week and revealed their concerns over the way pastoral rent rates had been increased.
Lawyers for Heytsbury Pastoral Company, which owns Nicholson, Flora Valley and Gordon Downs stations and the Kidman company, which owns Sturt Creek and Ruby Plains, said their clients had no issue with the Valuer-General's assessment of unimproved capital values of the land. But it was more an objection to the rent rate the Valuer-General had arrived at.
The Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) says rents had gone up by 334 per cent on average, and smaller pastoral concerns were hoping that the tribunal hearing could become a test case for the rest of the industry.
PGA president Rob Gillam said once the outcome became known, it may set some sort of precedent.
"If the case succeeds and some changes are made, there is a possibility that some of those changes may flow through to other Kimberley stations at least," Mr Gillam said.
"I would think that the department will look at the case and decide whether or not to apply that sort of outcome to other stations.
"We're not really sure how it will pan out but if the parties involved are successful, I think there will be other people out there who also think they deserve some relief."
S Kidman and Co managing director Greg Campbell said most of the industry was watching to see what the result of the joint Kidamn and Heytsbury action would be.
Mr Campbell said the decision to take the rent increases to the tribunal was based around two issues, the first being the economic state of the industry.
The second was the impost of a 350pc to 400pc rent increase which Mr Campbell felt had little justification.
"When we look across all our costs, as a national grazing operation we are in a position to compare crown rental in the other states," Mr Campbell said.
"In the Kimberley our crown rental on a per head basis, was twice as high as our next nearest crown rental.
"It comes in an environment where there are very few services and support provided by any of the three tiers of government.
"In Queensland we receive better services like roads, delivery of grid power, meatworks, or saleyards and other such services and the rents are half the price they are in the Kimberley.
"There was just no justification on the basis of service delivery or profitability in the industry that the government might have otherwise captured."
David Steadman, Wooramel station, Carnarvon, said he was frustrated with the current State Government attitude.
"I'm savage because Barnett and Grylls have hiked these rents up to unbelievable proportions," Mr Steadman said.
"We had floods in 2010, which did an enormous amount of damage and we lost nearly a million dollars worth of produce.
"Overall with the damage to fencing and the Indonesian live export ban last year, it is a kick in the pants.
"Then we have had these rate increases and more recently the fires."
Mr Steadman said the government was neglecting pastoralists.
"While the rent increase was spread out over three years of payment it doesn't ease the pain," he said.
"The increase still has to be paid at the end of the day."