Evolving to reap northern property rewards

'Modern, educated, risk-calculating agriculturalist' a better look for property prices: Roger Hill


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Prices in northern Queensland’s rural property market are likely to reflect the degree to which owners have been able to adapt to evolving consumer expectations and use modern management techniques.

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Prices in northern Queensland’s rural property market are likely to reflect the degree to which owners have been able to adapt to evolving consumer expectations and use modern management techniques.

That’s according to Herron Todd White’s northern regional manager, Roger Hill, who has been heartened by the latest media depiction of rural property owners as the “modern, educated, risk calculating agriculturalist” rather than a battling landholder surrounded by images of dry country and poor stock.

It symbolises the end of the tall poppy syndrome, where graziers doing well in the face of adversity weren’t spoken of, and is a better look for urban and international marketplaces, he believed.

Writing in the September Herron Todd White Rural review, Mr Hill said many eras have already come and gone in north Queensland, proving the saying “necessity is the mother of invention”.

“Since the late 1800s, north Queensland rural land uses have included flocks of sheep, mobs of cattle, hand cut sugar cane, aquaculture, horticulture and tobacco, to name a few.

“Each of these uses have endured their own economic cycles of development, expansion and contraction.”

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Rather than bemoaning the current eastern seaboard weather conditions, Mr Hill said they were providing a platform for business and land management to evolve once again, which he said was positive for northern grazing property markets in the future.

What Australians consider to be conventional agricultural practices is being challenged as much by consumerism, society ideology and government policy as by climate trends.

“The message is clear,” he said. “Yes, business conditions are varied at present, however it’s part of being in the industry and there are risk management strategies being employed.”

Mr Hill said the evolution was taking place quickly, showing that leaders were addressing the ideologies while not being arrogant to the humanistic needs of people in extreme situations, which was benefiting northern property market dynamics.

He said the northern rural market had a different dynamic and spread of risks, as well as a substantial shift in land ownership as the result of succession plans being implemented.

“Society’s influence on farming practices along the Barrier Reef coast is being embraced,” he said.

“There are farmers who have redesigned their farms so that water recycling and variable speed pump systems are being utilised.

“In time, there will be sales evidence to confirm the market value effect of these modern designs.”

Questioning whether that would bring upside for the farm that has been redesigned or discounts for conventionally designed farms, he believed it would be a bit of both.

“The price spread between a good farm rate per hectare and an old farm rate per hectare is likely to widen.

“The same concept is likely to be shared by the larger grazing property market.

“Stations that are improved for modern commercial management and land management will evolve to see a greater price range compared to the conventionally grazed counterpart.”

Mr Hill said the north was likely to benefit more than other areas from industry evolutions, thanks to market diversity and seasonal rainfall, plus leaders in the north had the opportunity to apply learnings from southern farming systems, land development and risk management as the modern evolution continued.

Issues likely to affect this as the northern industry matures included:

  • Cost and availability of water to implement irrigation projects;
  • Infrastructure – roads and rail development to manage the costs of delivering produce along the supply chain or to end markets;
  • Energy – costs of pumping and fuels not just for irrigation, but for production;
  • Renewable energy – given the direction of the solar and wind industries, the opportunity to tap into an income from having a site on farm or on a cattle station will be of benefit, while the current political system focuses on this industry;
  • Environmental incomes – carbon income that arises from the Emissions Reduction Scheme encourages a new way of thinking about the use and practices of land.

“Each of these items are considerations that will contribute to driving the modern commercial agriculturalist as they apply the wisdom of our short history of land use in this country,” Mr Hill said. “In turn, they will affect the use and value of the respective property markets in north Queensland.”

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