Ningaloo Station is a large pastoral lease about 130 kilometres south of Exmouth, WA.
The station has been managed by the Lefroy family since the 1930s. The Lefroys currently run the station as a camp site, dedicated to conserving this pristine slice of Australian natural beauty.
The Lefroys have been in a long-running battle with the Western Australian government over the future of Ningaloo Station. The current lease has been renewed from 1 July 2015, however a condition of renewal was that the lands minister could remove parts of the land to be managed by government, as provided for under the Land Administration Act 1997.
In 2002, the then-Labor government attempted to do just that. The 22 hectares of land represented not just 48% of the entire pastoral lease but also the lion’s share of the critical infrastructure, including watering points, laneways, holding paddocks, sheep yards, an air strip, workshops, and the heritage-listed Ningaloo homestead.
After initially agreeing not to excise land from pastoral leases in the lead up to the 2005 state election, the Coalition government is now attempting to do just that. Lands Minister Terry Redman has indicated that he wants to incorporate a series of local pastoral leases into the neighbouring Ningaloo Marine Park.
The land should remain in the hands of the Lefroy family. From both an economic and a conservationist standpoint this is the most sensible course of action, a point well made by Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia president Tony Seabrook:
“People up there who know that country and know it well.
“They are far better off to manage it than a government department working a five-day week with little understanding of how the rangeland works.”
Bureaucratic management of the station will not improve the environmental outcomes in this beautiful part of the world. Private operators are incentivised to manage resources well.
The Lefroy family has also spent considerable sums of money over many years improving and developing the land. They have the right to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
The Lefroys should be left to manage their own small piece of paradise.