Chinese “Land Grab” Tests Australian Farming Dynasties

The Australian examines a Chinese mining company’s “land grab” in New South Wales, following purchases of coal-rich farmland amounting to AU$213 million.

Michael Clift is a sixth-generation Liverpool Plains farmer, his family having worked the rich black soil of the NSW region for 175 years.

But the likelihood of the 41-year-old father of three passing the property into the hands of a seventh generation is rapidly diminishing as Chinese-controlled mining giant Shenhua Watermark Coal continues its sweeping purchase of the coal-laden farms that make up the area, 500km northwest of Sydney.

Mr Clift, who runs a 2000ha grain farm in Breeza, a small Liverpool Plains town on the outskirts of Gunnedah, is one of the few farmers to have resisted the temptation to sell to Shenhua, which, The Australian revealed yesterday, has so far bought 43 properties in the area over the past two years ….

Mr Clift does not begrudge those who have sold up and moved out. All but one of the neighbouring properties are now owned by Shenhua. But he’s “disgusted” at how the federal government’s failure to regulate such a large-scale foreign takeover of valuable farming land has effectively killed a local community, turning it from a farming region to a mining hub almost overnight.

“A community has been torn apart – everyone’s gone,” he said.

TIME recently asked whether the Australian economy was becoming “dangerously dependent” on China, while one economist claimed that the government’s recent budget “comes with a ‘made in China’ stamp”.

June 28, 2011 5:41 AM
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