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Niche market develops in the bush

THE growing public awareness of environmental issues has led to the emergence of a type of property investor … those who are passing over trendy inner city apartments and townhouses in search of something greener.

Ownership of bush properties is a developing niche market, with many investors looking to preserve their own piece of the Australian bush.

Real Estate Institute of WA rural chapter chairman John Wilson said that, during the past year, REIWA members had fielded an increasing number of inquiries regarding bush properties.

“There is certainly demand for bush properties at the moment, especially considering it started from nothing … but it will take more time to really pick up,” Mr Wilson said.

In most cases the bush blocks belonged to farmers who had been unable to clear them and who often could not afford to keep and care for large areas of bush.

A conservation sale usually was welcomed as it unlocked vital capital that could be used for the farming business, Mr Wilson said.

The South West had so far proven to be the most popular area, he said, however, the vegetation and wildlife in the Perth to Geraldton coastal strip was likely to draw attention from investors looking to conserve an ecologically diverse property.

Sustainable cottage industries such as wildflower seeds or honey production also were likely to spring up as investors looked for environmentally friendly ways to offset the initial cost of the investment.

Nathan McQuoid is one such investor. He plans to develop an eco-tourism facility on his 170ha bush block, which sits on the border of Fitzgerald River National Park.

“I bought the block for conservation purposes as well as to develop a nature-based tourism enterprise, something like a bush safari camp,” Mr McQuoid said.

“The idea of purchasing bush blocks for conservation purposes is gaining momentum and it presents a great opportunity for rural areas, in that it could help arrest the rural decline we’ve been seeing in recent years.

“Services are moving out of these areas and towns are

shrinking, but if people are coming into the area and buying bush blocks, then this may help to reverse that decline.”

Agriculture WA policy officer Keith Bradby suggested the trend toward bush blocks had started as far back as 15 years ago, but had picked up dramatically in the past two or three years.

“There is a greater awareness

of the environment now and people are translating that into a financial decision on how and where they want to live,” Mr Bradby said.

He said most sales involved people looking for weekender properties that did not require much work, other than basic ownership obligations relating to fencing and vermin.

Blocks were rarely more than $100,000, as higher prices put them out of potential buyers’ reach.

However, conservationists now were banding together and pooling their financial resources to buy bigger properties, upon which they spend a lot of time rehabilitating.

And there also was a growing number of institutional buyers, the most significant in WA being the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

Started in 1991 by Martin Copley, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy manages 450,000 ha for conservation purposes. Mr Copley, who has funded the purchase of each of the seven properties under management, believes the responsibility of conserving the Australian bush does not lie solely with governments.

“There is a government obligation to conserve nature in Australia but it is a far greater issue than they alone can handle because so much land is privately held, so the public and private sectors must also be engaged,” Mr Copley said.

The Conservancy purchases land or acquires leases on properties throughout WA and reintroduces native animals to them.

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