Is there a hidden agenda in the renewed interest by several businesses in leasing the Kidman properties in north-west Australia? A recent Productivity Commission inquiry has recommended privatisation of leasehold rangeland in pastoral areas. That is, conversion of leasehold to freehold land. Pastoral leases cover a huge area of Australia and currently state and territory leasehold conditions dictate how these rangelands are managed.
Changing leasehold land to freehold will lead to poor outcomes for biodiversity and native vegetation because pastoral businesses will maximise economic returns over environmental land management. The management mentality will become "it's my land and I will decide what I can do with it".
Furthermore, privatisation will compromise access of traditional owners to their land, which is an important right. Changes to the carbon farming initiative have already reduced opportunities for traditional owners to undertake meaningful activities such as practising early burning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on rangelands in northern Australia.
Peter Forster, Environmental Farmers Network
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