THE National Trust is in negotiations to sell a prime piece of South West forest as it moves to take advantage of an innovative land deal done two years ago with timber company Sotico.
The $1.75 million worth of land consisted of two parcels, the 200-hectare block near Bridgetown and a 59ha site near Jarrahdale, which the National Trust plans to turn into a heritage park in conjunction with the Serpentine Jarrahdale Shire.
The National Trust is pleased with the move, which allows Sotico to donate the land at full value before the heritage group places covenants on its use, devaluing the land in a commercial sense.
It plans to sell some of the land to a special interest group, which will provide the trust with some cash from the transactions.
Wesfarmers general manager of public affairs, Keith Kessell, told WA Business News that Sotico (formerly known as Bunnings Forest Products) had a genuine community interest in donating the sites to the National Trust.
“While there were other more profitable options that we had with the land, we believed that the greater benefit to the community lay with donating the land to the National Trust,” he said.
Sotico did not achieve the highest possible return on the land, but did receive significant tax advantages for the market value of the land, including the value of timber on the land which may have been difficult to otherwise realise.
The Jarrahdale site was valued at $1 million, and the Numblock site, 18km from Bridgetown, at $750,000.
The Jarrahdale site was severely degraded when the National Trust obtained it.
National Trust CEO Tom Perrigo said the trust had undertaken a major clean up of the site utilising work-for-the dole labour. Total cost was nearly $100,000. About half the land belongs to the trust and the other half was purchased by the shire.
The park will be an integrated residential and commercial development with an emphasis on eco-development and the town’s historical significance. The shire is proposing to incorporate walking trails, elevated canopy walks, viewing towers, the historical mill manager’s residence, an amphitheatre, and picnic decks into the park, as well as a working mill and sculptural depiction of jarrah trees that grew in the forest prior to milling operations.
The National Trust has put a covenant on 194ha Numblock bush land site to ensure that it remains a reserve and can never be logged. The trust is currently negotiating with a number of key organisations with an interest in acquiring the site. Any money raised from the sale will be put back into the trust’s stewardship program for national heritage.
“The National Trust is very keen to expand its role in the community and in doing so wishes to look at opportunities across the State with companies and individuals that hold land we consider to be of heritage value,” Mr Perrigo said.
He listed the Old Newspaper House in Westralia Square and areas of bush land in Cape Bouvard as examples of key sites in which the trust had an interest in obtaining.
“It seems that everyone involved in the chain of events in regards to the land donated by Sotico has a win – the company donating the land, the National Trust and the groups or communities that get to receive the benefits of the land,” Mr Perrigo said.
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