First farms to be sold under new FIRB laws

THE first farms subject to Australia’s new foreign investment selling rules will be sold in mid-March, according to its owner and marketing agents.
The Twynam Agricultural Group – founded in the 1970s by John Dieter Kahlbetzer – has appointed agents to sell three properties in western NSW as part of its downsizing program.
The Kahlbetzer family’s agricultural group began divesting its pastoral assets in 2009 and will sell three of its Lachlan River frontage properties by an expression of interest campaign closing on March 12.
Twynam has appointed Gary Johnston of Johnston Rural Group Forbes and Bruce Gunning, principal of Ray White Rural International to handle the transaction.
Mr Johnston said the three properties represent a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.
“These are fertile high quality farmlands and rarely do such large properties with so much water from the Lachlan River and groundwater become available. It’s very productive and versatile farmland,” Mr Johnston said.
Mr Gunning said the properties will be advertised for 33 days to satisfy the new rules.
“These properties will be sold. Rest assured we are not mucking around here,” he said.
Johnny Kahlbetzer said the properties were six weeks into a campaign when Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison changed the rules.
“We were pretty close to signing a contract when the government brought in the new rules. There are a large number of international funds who have been buying these sorts of properties, plus there are a number of Australian entities who may be interested including high net worth individuals or agricultural businesses.
“These are three very different properties and they could potentially sell to different types of investors so we expect quite a lot of interest.
“The market is currently very strong – prices are strong, There are a lot of people who want to be in agriculture so we know these assets are well sought-after and there are plenty of buyers out there,” Mr Kahlbetzer said.
Jemalong Station and Jemalong Citrus at Forbes has been owned by the Kahlbetzer family since 1979, and the facility also includes the local polo club.
The family bought Merrowie at Hillston in 1991 and went on to pioneer cotton growing in southern NSW.
“We have been selling down significantly since 2009 when we sold our irrigation water to the Federal Government and back then we had 24 farms. After these three, we’ll still have a few smaller farms but it is time to go and do other things,” Mr Kahlbetzer said.
Jemalong Station is located approx. 35km west of Forbes, comprises 13,387ha with 2,384ha of irrigation development an 8,885 ML JIL Water (Jemalong Irrigation Licence), 3,107 ML groundwater.
Adjoining Jemalong Station is Jemalong Citrus on 360.84ha. It has access to 1000 ML Groundwater and 750 ML JIL Water. The property comprises about 170,000 orange trees, mostly winter juicing varieties.
The other property being offered for sale is Merrowie which is situated 15km west of town of Hillston. It is approx. 32,730ha with 9,906ha of developed irrigation and has available approx. 6,689 ML of General Security Lachlan River Water Entitlements as well as 10,528 ML of Groundwater Licence and approx. 16,000 ML above ground water storage.