Few people are aware of the NSW Government's buy-ups (last year) of station land to add to its collection of (neglected) national parks. The purchases (undertaken when Matt Kean was state environment minister) included Avenel at Broken Hill (121,390 hectares), Langidoon-Metford also near Broken Hill (60,468ha), Koonaburra at Ivanhoe (45,534 ha), Brindingabba-Bindra at Bourke (33,000 ha), and Narriearra at Tibooburra (153,415 ha). The purchases in total exceed 400,000 hectares (i.e. over a million acres), all in the low rainfall Western Division of the state.
Many observers regard the purchases as an expensive stunt, that buys lots of acres for a low cost per acre (often under $100) but due to the large acreages, still cost tens of millions of dollars plus ongoing running costs.
The locals are not pleased.
It has been reported that the NSW government paid well over market value to acquire the properties, so that the taxpayer got poor value for money. It is also unlikely, due to remote location, semi arid topography, and very hot summers, that the properties will be attractive to visitors. Remote Western properties represent a hazard for the unwary, as it is easy for visitors to get lost or stranded in inhospitable areas far from help.
There is also likely to be wholesale destruction of station infrastructure, as millions of dollars of fences and yards are likely to be bulldozed, water infrastructure decommissioned, and many remaining property assets neglected. Valuable woolsheds are destined to become museum pieces.
Rate-payers and local businesses will suffer because millions will be cut from local economies due to the loss of agricultural production, and because national parks are exempt from rates (so that the revenue lost must be raised from others). Bear in mind that the Western Division is very sparsely populated and has limited employment opportunities as it is and can't afford to have key assets taken out of production.
Neighbouring graziers are fearful and don't relish having a national park on their doorstep.
The decommissioning of water resources (e.g. the mass removal or neglect of water tanks, troughs and pumps) on the bought up land will force pest species and native wildlife onto surrounding stations in search of water.
Graziers also know full well that national park managers have little interest in maintaining boundary fences.
Official policy states that "NPWS's assistance with fencing will be subject to the availability of funding and staff resources, and to meeting its other responsibilities under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974". They also have a poor record in controlling weeds and feral animals (feral goats exist in large numbers in the Western Division). Pests (goats, pigs, wild dogs and cats), as well as kangaroos, are expected to breed up in the new park areas in the absence of livestock. Neighbours fear that mass intrusion by such animals will reduce available feed, and that their livelihoods will suffer.
The purchases last year are on top of the high profile purchase for a reported $23.75 million just over a decade ago of Toorale (by the NSW and Commonwealth governments). The station was a noted 91,000 hectare crop irrigation (mainly cotton) and sheep property atthe confluence of the Darling and Warrego rivers near Bourke. That purchase was driven by the Rudd government, which wished to "save" the Darling River by acquiring the station's 14 billion litre water entitlement.
The purchase did not achieve its objective, as the station's levee banks continued to divert water from the river system when it rained upstream. The Darling and Warrego are not permanent rivers anyway, and stopping irrigation or banning water storages won't make these rivers flow during the regular prolonged droughts out west.
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