More than 400,000 hectares of pastoral land in Western Australia’s Goldfields region has been sold to the Chinese real estate conglomerate Shanghai CRED.
Shanghai CRED is also part of a $365 million joint bid with Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting to purchase the Kidman cattle empire.
Shanghai CRED paid around $2 million to purchase Melita, Jeedamya and Kookynie stations, owned for the last decade or so by WA cattle identity Jack Burton, from the Yeeda Pastoral Company.
The Chinese company is also waiting on FIRB approval for several other Goldfields stations and has recently purchased Yakka Munga and Mount Elizabeth stations in the Kimberley.
Jack Burton owns several stations across the Kimberley and last month opened the Kimberley Beef Processing Facility, north of Broome.
Mr Burton said his family had purchased Melita about 10 years ago and had planned to run small stock on it.
“We have really started focussing on our operation up north rather than our stuff out there,” he said.
“Our ambition was to let it repair and then slowly work stock back into the program there.”
Wild dog predation in the pastoral region has prevented many southern pastoral properties from running small stock.
Big ambitions to expand production
Mr Burton said the new owners, Shanghai CRED, were planning to run cattle on the property.
“We had ambitions to put dog fences and sheep back in there but obviously the guys who have bought it are more looking at cattle.
“They’ve obviously got a plan, with what they’ve been up to they’ve got a fairly active plan.
“They have some big ambitions to bring a lot of the country, that has been parked up and not used recently, back into production.
“As far as I know they’re looking at putting some cattle infrastructure there and bringing all that up to speed and then introducing cattle.
“They’ve got a property in Marvel Loch there in the Wheatbelt and I think they’re thinking of running them all in conjunction.”
Mr Burton said the property was destocked before the transaction. It had been for sale for six months before Shanghai CRED expressed an interest.
The purchase needed approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board.
Mr Burton said the process was frustrating and lengthy.
“It’s hard to understand how it all works. There is obviously state and federal requirements for approvals, as usual in this country it’s a massive issue with red tape and time,” he said.
“Why it takes so long has got me beat.
“I think surely something like that the decision could be made faster and so that the people who are buying and the people who are selling can get on with their lives.
“I think this idea that everyone should have to wait for such a massive amount of time for something like that to either be approved or denied, whatever the outcome people will live with that, but it just has to be done in a timely manner.
“These guys would have been in there 12 months ago progressing the development of the property.”
Mr Burton said this sale was an example of positive foreign investment.
“This is a property that I’ve owned for nearly a decade and done virtually nothing with,” he said.
“I look at it and think if someone else is going in there, regardless of who or where they’ve come from or who they are, if they’re going to go in and invest a heap of money and reinvigorate that property and reinvigorate that industry I think we should embrace it.”
He said aside from conservation groups and carbon farming interests, there were few other buyers for these sorts of properties.
Positive move for WA pastoral industry
President of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia Tony Seabrook said the sale was mostly a positive move for the WA pastoral industry.
“The Chinese are very keen to increase productivity wherever they go.
“I have no doubt there will be a lot of investment going on out there that will enhance the capacity of these properties, production wise,” he said.
“There is a concern out there in the broader community about foreign investment but if you’ve got property that is not being invested and is not producing, and someone comes on board and is prepared to put a lot of capital in and get it up and running in a very effective way, it’s all got to be positive.”
Mr Seabrook said wild dog predation had destroyed the small stock industry and cattle was the only option for some pastoralists.
“Things do evolve, I’ve no doubt that once the methodology is determined and the stocking rates are determined and the infrastructure goes in, which is obviously fences and water, it is the way forward,” he said.
“Obviously cattle are far more sustainable than wild dogs and if we are going to drive any benefit from that pastoral land we’re going to have to do something completely different than thinking we can run sheep there.”