PGA threatens legal action over leases

25 Oct, 2013 01:00 AM
PGA president Rob Gillam (left), with Lands Minister Brendon Grylls.
PGA president Rob Gillam (left), with Lands Minister Brendon Grylls.

THE Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) says it is prepared to take the State Government to court over the latest pastoral lease renewals.

The PGA has sought legal advice from three separate solicitors which PGA president Rob Gillam said told him the State Government was not able to make changes to the 2015 pastoral lease.

All pastoral leases are set to be renewed on June 30, 2015.

Mr Gillam and a number of pastoralists believe the Department of Lands had made significant changes to the lease agreement which had already been offered to pastoralists in 1997 and accepted in 1998. Confirmation of the pastoral lease was also in writing to pastoralists and signed by then Lands Minister Doug Shave.

In 2002, the Lands Minister Alannah MacTiernan, also wrote to pastoralists and gave notice that no land would be excluded from the area of the pastoral lease and confirmed the whole of the pastoral leases would be extended from July 1, 2015, on the terms and conditions of the offer.

Current Lands Minister Brendon Grylls said on radio in August that there had not been any change in the pastoral leases.

"We've made no legislative change," Mr Grylls said.

"All we've sought to do is take the detail from the Land Administration Act, and put it into the leases.

"So there have been no changes, we're simply making the pastoralists aware?

"But I just want to assure all of your listeners, there's been no changes made. All they've got now is that the information is in their lease that was previously referred back to from their lease to the Land Administration Act."

But Mr Gillam disagrees and said the PGA was prepared for court action over the new draft lease.

He said if the Department of Lands wanted to put in new conditions, its new conditions it should have done so 10 years before the rollover of the leases, which is required under legislation.

He said the new lease was not in the same 'spirit' as the old lease.

He said areas in the lease such as termination, animal welfare; finance and the environmental health were all new.

"All of those points are not up for negotiation," Mr Gillam said.

""Until they (the Department of Lands) can substantiate the reasons why they can even offer us a new lease, because under the legislation we have already been offered terms and conditions similar to what we have already had and pastoralists have written back and accepted those (conditions).

"We understand there might be some small amendments to it for things that have changed since, but the changes are not like that, they are substantially different."

Mr Gillam said the Department of Lands needed to seek external legal advice or go to the Attorney General to find out the legal ratification of where the lease stands.

Under the new conditions the PGA said the Minister had the ability to end a lease based on an allegation alone of animal welfare issues.

All without the right of an appeal.

The Department of Lands acting director general Mike Bradford said the current pastoral lease dated back to the 1960s and referred extensively to legislation that has since been repealed.

"As such, it is the view of the Department of Lands that it is not possible to carry forward the current lease and that the lease must be revised to incorporate modern terms in line with current pastoral practices and Crown leases," he said.

"Some new requirements have been introduced in line with modern commercial leases relating to areas such as indemnity and insurance.

"In preparing the draft lease, which has been available for industry for comment for the past three months, the Department has sought to improve clarity and transparency in relation to the rights and responsibilities of pastoral lessees."

The Department of Lands received 158 comments from 82 stakeholders in relation to the lease, and is currently in the process of analysing these submissions.

Submissions ended on Friday, October 18.

"The first phase of consultation has focused on pastoral lessees, pastoral industry representatives, PGA, and other interest holders," he said.

"The Department intends to consult in depth with the financial sector once it has had an opportunity to consider comments provided by industry.

"The initial closing date of September 6, 2013, was extended to October 18, 2013, as an opportunity for the industry to provide informed comment.

"The Department of Lands remains receptive to receiving constructive feedback about this process that will allow government to move forward and provide certainty over lease renewals for 2015.

"It is in the interests of all parties to work together to ensure that lease renewals proceed as scheduled.

"The Department intends to continue to work towards that outcome.

"The 2015 pastoral lease renewal process and the draft new pastoral lease have been subject to extensive and ongoing legal advice."

Pastoral Lands Board (PLB) chairman Leanne Corker said the lease appeared to have more things in it, but the PLB would be meeting today to form a view of whether the lease would be endorsed or needed amending.



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