Australian farmers buy BACK precious farming land from China – but there was a very expensive catch and it involves YOUR taxes
- Chinese state-owned Shenhua Watermark Coal has sold land in north-west NSW
- A dozen farming families and an agribusiness bought 16,750 hectares of land
- CBRE brokered the sale worth $120million after Shenhua withdrew exploration
A dozen Australian farming families have bought back agricultural land from a Chinese state-owned mining company.
Shenhua Watermark Coal’s 16,570-hectare landholding on the Liverpool Plains, in north-west NSW, has been sold for $120million – 13 years after it bought the land from farmers.
CBRE, who handled the sale, confirmed 12 farming families and one corporation had collectively bought the land near Gunnedah.
The land was put on the market in July after the state government paid Shenhua Watermark Coal $100million to withdraw its mining lease application to develop an open-cut mine.
Instead, the land will now be used for sheep and cattle grazing, along with growing crops following a decade-long battle to stop the mine going ahead.
A dozen Australian farming families have bought back agricultural land from a Chinese state-owned mining company. National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson (pictured left), who is also a Liverpool Plains farmer, said locals had fought against plans to allow coal mining in the area
CBRE’s Agribusiness managing director David Goodfellow said an agricultural investment manager bought one third of the whole land portfolio with a dozen local farming families buying the rest.
‘Families in this region have recovered well from the drought and are now looking to expand their operations to capitalise on low interest rates and the continued strength in commodity prices to make inter-generational buying decisions,’ he said.
National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson, who is also a Liverpool Plains farmer, said locals had fought against plans to allow coal mining in the area.
‘Local landholders have been eyeing off this land for a very long time, just waiting and wanting to get it back,’ she told ABC Radio National.
‘The community, largely though, didn’t agree this was the best place for a coal mine, we thought it was the best place for agriculture and the community has fought very long and very hard to make sure that this land is kept for agriculture.
Shenhua Watermark Coal had paid $300million for a coal exploration licence in 2008.
Shenhua Watermark Coal’s 16,570-hectare landholding on the Liverpool Plains, in north-west NSW, has been sold for $120million – 13 years after it bought the land from farmers. CBRE, who handled the sale, confirmed 12 farming families and one corporation had collectively bought the land near Gunnedah (pictured is the intersection of the Oxley and Newell highways)
In July 2017, then premier Gladys Berejiklian’s New South Wales government paid Shenhua $262million to hand back 51 per cent of that exploration licence.
In April 2021, her then treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced the Berejiklian government would buy back the remainder of Shenhua’s mining lease for another $100million.
‘The cancellation of this project will mean that no open cut coal mining can occur in the area,’ he said at the time.
‘Coal will of course continue to be an important part of our economy and is essential to supporting jobs, and the NSW government continues to support coal exploration in areas where it makes sense.’
Shenhua Watermark Coal had paid $300million for a coal exploration licence in 2008 (pictured is a Shenhua Group plant at Yinchuan in northern China)
Under the original licensing agreement, Shenhua was required to sell the land if the mine didn’t go ahead.
CBRE received 45 expressions of interest on the land for all or part of the Shenhua plots near Tambar Springs, Barraba and Breeza.
Overseas interests have had to seek Foreign Investment Review Board approval to buy agricultural land worth $15million or more.
Chinese agricultural investment is a vexed issue.
In 2012, Chinese textile giant Shandong Ruyi bought 80 per cent of Cubbie Station in south-west Queensland.
But in 2019 FIRB demanded it reduce to 51 per cent its stake in Australia’s largest irrigation project, which includes cotton.