Losing Land to Foreign Investors

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Written by Melanie Toye, May 2012

The rural country home of farmers and grazing land at Telopea Downs in Western Victoria’s Wimmera has been bought out. Roughly 40,000 hectares of grazing land was sold to Hassad Australia, an Australian registered, Qatar-owned company. A small $35 million was believed to be the undisclosed purchase price.

Local farmers and residents are believed to not be pleased with the sale outcome. Mayor Eveline Van Breugel from West Wimmera Shire looks forward to a potential increase of employment rates and population in the area from the new opportunities presented by Hassad Australia. Hassad Australia confirm they do place a strong emphasis on sourcing local suppliers, providing local employment opportunities and utilising the services of local contractors. So for Victorian’s this may be a great boost for the agricultural economy.

Hassad Australia is not new to buying land; the company owns over 200,000 hectares within nine agricultural aggregations in Australia.

Peter Tuohey, Vice President of Victoria Farmers Federation, was not ecstatic about the loss of Australian land. "It highlights the fact that a lot of good country is being bought by overseas interests," Mr Tuohey said.

Although Tuohey and Breugel seemed to fault Australians for not purchasing this large land, perhaps the reason is due to our local farmers requiring more assistance when acquiring new land and business instead of jumping through so many hoops.

Although having foreign interest in our country is somewhat a nervous ordeal, it could be a good start to a great export/import partnership. In terms of future land ownership, Tom McKeon, Chief Executive Officer of Hassad Australia, implied on a recent radio interview that Hassad Australia had nearly acquired all the land they were seeking to purchase. “We’re approaching completion. We still have a little bit to complete on the East Coast, and certainly on the West Coast we are nearly there.”