Foreclosures take away farmers’ properties, livelihoods

Lee Wallace’s 39,500 hectare cattle station and remaining 4,200 cattle will be sold tomorrow, against his wishes.


“That’s the end of it for me,” Mr Wallace said.

His cattle farm – Newburgh Station, west of Townsville – is one of a growing number of Northern Queensland farms that face foreclosure.

Mr Wallace was concerned for the welfare of his cattle, which were under receivership, and said potential buyers had contacted him and reported seeing dead cattle and no water in troughs.

“They’re my livelihood,” Mr Wallace said.

However, Will Rayner from Rural Bank said their clients’ animals were taken care of.

The bank can not make specific comments about individual clients, but said making sure animals were healthy before sale was best for everyone, including the bank.

“When a property goes into receivership, professional and expert cattle management teams are put in place to implement industry standard animal welfare programs,” Mr Rayner said.

Mr Wallace had one other property that was sold earlier this year.

His sister bought that property, where Mr Wallace currently lives.

“Otherwise I’d be out on the street,” Mr Wallace said.

Latest data from Department of Agriculture

About 20 per cent of broadacre farms in the Northern Queensland gulf region carried in excess of $1 million in farm business debt, at June 30 this year.

Today’s report from ABARES said that was higher than rates of 14 per cent across Queensland and Australia (June 2013), but lower than the Northern Territory.

The average debt per farm in the gulf region is thought to have declined in 2013-14, due to farm asset sales including land and beef cattle.

Meanwhile, positive cash flow in the Northern Queensland gulf has declined.

Chart: ABARES, Regional Farm Debt report, December 2014.

Farmers lose their properties across Northern Queensland

There were increasing numbers of foreclosures across Northern Queensland, federal MP Bob Katter said.

Tomorrow Mr Katter, local federal MP for the vast agricultural seat of Kennedy, will join state member for Mt Isa Rob Katter to ask banks for mercy at a Rural Debt Crisis Summit in Winton.

The meeting kicks off at 11.30am, half an hour after the sale of Lee Wallace’s farm and cattle has started.

Banks are obligated to sell assets with the best possible outcomes for their debtors, Mr Katter said, but argued a bank could not act in farmers’ best interests if farms are sold before the wet season arrives.

The situation of farms foreclosing in Northern Queensland was severe, Mr Katter said.

“We’ve reached crisis point,” Mr Katter said.

“[Banks] used a single shot shotgun on us before.

“Now they’re using machine guns on us.”

Australia produces 4 per cent of the world’s beef supply, and Queensland is Australia’s biggest beef and veal producing state, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) says.

China had a growing appetite for beef cattle, MLA said.

However, farmers’ properties were being taken from them before they could take advantage of growing demand, Mr Katter said.

“They’re selling with the knowledge that the market is going go through the roof.”

The drought, the previous government’s live export ban, high dollar and the hold Woolworths and Coles have over the domestic market have added to the woes of farmers, Mr Katter said.

The Rural Debt Crisis Summit starts tomorrow in Winton.READ MORE: The Feed investigates the increasing number of farmer suicides in drought-stricken Queensland