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Western Lands leases

Mount Oxley viewsNearly all the land in the Western Division is held under Western Lands Leases granted under the Western Lands Act 1901. The primary purpose of the Western Lands Act is to ensure the appropriate management of this fragile environment. By world standards, it is one of the oldest pieces of resource management legislation and demonstrates the environmental foresight of our early legislators.

Conditions are attached to each Western Lands Lease to ensure the land is managed sustainably. That means that land must not be over-grazed, and that approvals must be obtained to cultivate land and to subdivide or transfer the lease. The Western Lands Commissioner has the power to impose notices on lessees to destock areas, refrain from certain activities, or rehabilitate damaged or degraded areas.

Most leases are perpetual (ongoing) and can only be used for a designated purpose. If different or additional uses are sought, an application to alter the lease purpose or lease conditions must be made, which requires a review of environmental factors. The Crown land (the Department) administers over 6,600 Western Lands Leases, including 4,300 for grazing, 505 for agriculture, 1,593 for residence and 179 for businesses. In addition, it oversees 16 Crown Reserves leases, 104 Crown and Irrigation Area leases, and 816 licences to occupy Crown land.

Western Lands Leases are bought and sold in the same way as freehold property. However, when people "buy" leases they are in fact only buying the improvements on the lease and the right to lease the land.

The Crown charges an annual rent for leases. In accordance with the Act, grazing and agriculture lease rents are based on the total area of the property and on the environmental impact of the land use, including a credit for managed conservation. Rents for residential and business leases are 3 per cent and 6 per cent of the land value, respectively.

Western Lands Leases granted for the purposes of residential (excluding residential leases at Lightning Ridge), business, agriculture, mixed farming, cultivation or similar purposes are eligible to be converted to freehold. However, at this time leases held for grazing or pastoral purposes cannot be freeholded. The Western Lands Commissioner is chair of the Wild Dog Destruction Board, which maintains the 600 kilometre dog proof fence along parts of the Queensland and South Australian borders. Wild Dog Destruction Board rates are payable on all properties in the Western Division of more than 1,000 hectares, including freehold and leasehold lands. West Region staff of the Department carry out rate collection and debt management on behalf of the Board.