In late 2019, the South Australian Government commenced a review of the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act 1989 (SA) (“the Pastoral Land Act”) following calls from industry stakeholders that the Pastoral Land Act has become outdated.
The Review included two periods of public consultation with the final period concluding in October 2020 and has culminated in the preparation of a draft bill known as the Pastoral Lands Bill 2020 (SA) (“the draft Bill”).
The draft Bill is scheduled to be presented by the Minister for Primary Industries and Regions (“Minister”) to State Parliament next year. It will need to be debated in, and pass, both the House of Assembly and the Legislative Council before it can be referred to the Governor for royal assent and enacted into law.
If enacted, the draft Bill will replace the Pastoral Land Act, bringing widespread changes aimed at modernising the management of pastoral land with it.
Some of the key changes proposed in the draft Bill are:
- support for economic growth in the pastoral industry by ensuring pastoralists are able to diversify, better manage income and adapt to seasonal variability. Changes to support this include the removal of maximum stock levels and a mechanism for pastoral businesses to diversify with alternative land uses where appropriate (subject to approval by the Pastoral Board). This will be welcome relief for pastoralists;
- extending pastoral lease terms from 42 to 100 years. If implemented, this would provide certainty in planning and investments and enable pastoralists to demonstrate a more long-term future to financiers. Pastoralists will still need to ensure that the land subject to the pastoral lease is maintained in accordance with applicable legislative requirements (for example, fencing requirements). As is currently the case under the Pastoral Land Act, the draft Bill allows the Minister to revoke pastoral leases where the requirements of any pastoral lease have not been met;
- improved geographical definition of public access routes is also addressed in the draft Bill. This is designed to resolve ambiguous property boundaries and prevent the public from driving unknowingly through pastoral properties;
- stronger compliance tools and penalties for misuse of pastoral land are proposed, including the introduction of an offence for trespassing, littering, hunting or shooting on pastoral land without legal authority. This is intended to act as a deterrent for inappropriate behaviour by visitors or travellers who pass across pastoral lands without lawful authority. An increase in the maximum penalty for misusing pastoral land from $10,000 to $100,000 for a body corporate or $50,000 for a natural person is proposed;
- to the composition of the Pastoral Board; including a requirement that the majority of members and the presiding member are persons who hold one or more pastoral leases. This will give pastoralists greater say over matters that affect them most. The requirement for one member to be selected by the Conservation Council of South Australia and have ecology or conservation experience has also been removed;
- a requirement that the Pastoral Board publish a record of its meetings and hold at least two public meetings a year within the pastoral rangelands;
- greater flexibility in the application of the Pastoral Lands Fund is also proposed to support the draft Bill’s administration and objectives; and
- prescribing more frequent land assessments: every 10 years (down from 14 years) using the latest technology.
The majority of changes set out in the draft Bill will come as welcome news to pastoralists (many of whom have been awaiting legislative reform). At the same time, should the draft Bill become law, it will be critical for pastoralists to be aware of and understand their new obligations regarding the management of the land and the prospect of increased maximum penalties.
We will monitor the status of the draft Bill before State Parliament in the New Year and provide a further update as it progresses.
This publication has been prepared for general guidance on matters of interest only and does not constitute professional legal advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining specific professional legal advice. No representation or warranty (express or implied) is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this publication and to the extent permitted by law, Cowell Clarke does not accept or assume any liability, responsibility or duty of care for any consequences of you or anyone else acting or refraining to act in relation on the information contained in this publication or for any decision based on it.