Sale of prime farmland once slated for Shenhua coal mine is finally complete

An Australian-based agricultural asset management company has been confirmed as the new owner of rich farmland in northern New South Wales that was once earmarked for a coal mine.

Gunn Agri Partners has settled the purchase of around 6,000 hectares of land in the plains of Liverpool after Chinese energy giant Shenhua scrapped its controversial Watermark coal mine project last year.

The purchase represents about a quarter of the land earmarked for the mine.

The remainder was sold to private landowners or returned to the New South Wales government for Aboriginal cultural preservation, revegetation and koala management.

The property will be operated by Faulkner Farming and regional manager Matthew Tonkin said it is expected to have a variety of uses.

“There are existing crops on fertile black and red soils. There is significant potential to transform previously underutilized areas into unimproved pasture,” he said.

Plans to regenerate the country

Bradley Wheaton of Gunn Agri Partners said they plan to regenerate the country and work closely with other local farmers.

“By ensuring that we have ground cover for as much of the year as possible…we are also looking to incorporate grazing opportunities into our crop rotations,” he said.

Mr Wheaton said they also hope to employ local people and work with environmental groups to protect the koala corridors surrounding the property.

CBRE agribusiness managing director David Goodfellow, who managed the sale, said Gunn Agri Partners understood the importance of the land to the community.

“The Gunn Agri model is really about buying land suitable for developing better forms of agriculture, but also with the greatest respect for the natural environment,” he said.

“They already have around $450 million of farmland under management in Australia.”

Residents satisfied

Susan Lyle was one of many local farmers who campaigned against Shenhua’s plans for many years.

She said she was comfortable with a corporation becoming the owner.

“They will come forward and bring what used to be very good farmland back to where it should be,” she said.

Ms Lyle said the new owners would have a lot of work to do to re-establish the property as productive farmland.

“Unfortunately, during the Shenhua era, this campaign deteriorated into nothing but a mess,” she said.

Shenhua pulled out of its planned Watermark mine last year after negotiation with the NSW government.

It marked the end of 13 years of exploration activity on the plains of Liverpool.

Job , updated

Amalia H. Mercado