THE Australian Government has agreed to buy Glenprairie Station on the Central Queensland coast north of Rockhampton for a reported price of around $45 million, to fill a Department of Defence training ground role.
The sale announcement comes at the same time that Queensland state farm organisation, AgForce, challenges the Government over a perceived cattle ‘land grab’ in Queensland for military training purposes.
AgForce president Grant Maudsley this morning said landholders in Central and North Queensland were outraged at the prospect of losing land that had been in their family for generations for expanded military training purposes, while businesses feared the expansion plans could turn their local communities into ghost towns.
Vendor. prominent cattle producer Peter Camm bought the 27,000ha mostly freehold Glenprairie Station in June 2013 for a price rumoured at the time to be about $28m.
The deal was part of a series of distressed sales of grazing assets held by Sir Graham McCamley. A year earlier in May 2012, Glenprairie (including a second portion) was put to auction, but was passed in on an auctioneer’s bid of $55 million.
Vendor Peter Camm has bought and sold a considerable number of grazing properties across northern Australia over the past 18 years. From his original base at Natal Downs, south of Charters Towers, he bought large scale breeding property, Brooking Springs, near Halls Creek in WA.
He then moved to Labelle/Welltree near Litchfield National Park in the NT’s top end. He sold Labelle/Welltree to RM Williams for around $70m around 2008, before buying large-scale North Queensland breeding property Chudleigh Park, in the basalt north of Hughenden soon afterwards. That price was around $28m.
Mr Camm added more north Queensland country including Lolworth, north of Charters Towers; Victoria Downs south of Charters Towers and Goldsborough, between Hughenden and Charters Towers.
In partnership with another Central Queensland cattleman, Alan Nobbs, Sir Graham McCamley purchased Glenprairie in 2005 as part of a large Central Queensland coastal aggregation that also included Fitzroy Vale and Lake Learmonth, for a combined figure of just over $106 million.
Glenprairie is one of the oldest stations in Central Queensland, established by explorer and pastoralist William Landsborough. Among its six owners over the past 155 years was colourful Greek shipping magnate, Gregory Hadjieltheradis, who developed the property over ten years up to 2005 for Certified Organic beef production. Previous owners included the Holmes a Court family’s Heytesbury Cattle Co, and Queensland Stations.
Glenprairie is located 120km north of Rockhampton and 27km north of Marlborough.
The property has been available for sale in an ‘off-market’ context since 2015, and a sale was close to being executed about 15 months ago with overseas (supposedly German) investors. That deal was also said to involve several other assets designed to build an integrated export beef supply chain, including the Meramist export beef abattoir in southeast Queensland, but the deal never eventuated. Other interested parties included a large Brisbane-based investment fund.
This week’s Glenprairie sale deal was described by the Financial Review is part of the Australian-Singapore Defence relationship which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said last year would see the Singapore government invest up to $2.25 billion in the expansion of two “of our most important military training facilities” including the Shoalwater Bay training area.
“Everything is about timing,” Mr Camm told the AFR, after confirming a deal with the military had been agreed.
“I needed Glenprairie during the drought and it saved me and it’s been a very good place,” he said.
The federal government already has a long-term agreement with the United States to use Shoalwater Bay for military training purposes. The Shoalwater Bay training area includes about 270,000ha of land.
Mr Camm will lease back the property from the department for another three years.
Defence land grab ‘last straw’ for frustrated cattle producers
Meanwhile, AgForce this morning claimed that a Department of Defence plan to take land from Queensland farming families so Singaporean soldiers can train more often in Australia is another example of Governments disregarding the importance of maintaining agricultural country for food production.
AgForce president Grant Maudsley said agriculture had long been a cornerstone of the Queensland economy and a vital contributor to society, providing tens of thousands of jobs in regional, rural and remote communities.
“However, agricultural country is constantly being taken off landholders for a variety of reasons – for national park expansions, for mining developments, for urban sprawl, and now more farm land could be lost so an overseas army can come and blow up bombs there.
“It highlights how Governments don’t understand what it takes to produce food and fibre in this country. Politicians just don’t get it,” he said.
Mr Maudsley said he would attend a community meeting at the Marlborough Town Hall at 3pm today with AgForce Central Queensland President John Baker to hear from landholders and local businesses affected by the Department of Defence’s expansion plans.
“AgForce is vehemently opposed to any compulsory acquisition of agricultural land for the purpose of Defence expansions,” he said. “We’re well aware the Federal Government has the power to enforce compulsory acquisitions, but we believe forcing agricultural producers off their land for the benefit of the Singaporean army is an abuse of that power.
“AgForce will continue to do everything possible to assist affected landholders during this difficult and uncertain time, and we will do everything we can to ensure politicians understand and listen to landholders’ concerns about the devastating impact this will have on their families and local communities.”
A similar information session is being planned for the Charters Towers Golf Club on 17 January for affected landholders in North Queensland.