Last of Leitch properties to be offered up for auction
IN WHAT signals the end of a challenging era for the Southern Downs rural property market, the last of the Leitch Pastoral Group holdings will be offered for auction today.
At the instruction of receivers, Bodumba station will go under the hammer at an Elders auction at the Palace Hotel at 11am.
The 2500 hectare holding west of Warwick is the final of more than 17 properties - including two abattoirs - located on the Southern Downs and in the Pittsworth/Millmerran region that were once owned by embattled businessman Dudley Leitch.
The former mining magnate was declared bankrupt in November 2011, almost a decade after he started an investment spree that resulted in an enterprise which stretched from processing plants at Pittsworth and Killarney, to irrigated farming country at Wheatvale, feedlots and a swathe of grazing land.
Leitch started buying in 2005 and 2006 and continued through the property price highs of 2008 with the group rapidly accumulating a rural portfolio conservatively valued at $30 million.
But when the company collapsed and the enterprise was put in the hands of receivers it triggered a land sale, which has had a lasting impact on South Downs rural market.
Elders Warwick principal Andrew Williams admitted it had been a challenging time to market rural property with seasonal conditions and livestock prices impacting on investor confidence.
"Prices we are selling land for now - including the Leitch Pastoral Group holdings - would be back 30-40% on the market peaks of 2008," Mr Williams said.
"But we have seen renewed buyer interest and a significant amount is coming from professionals with agricultural interests or business people with a rural backgrounds or connections.
"I think for many people these properties have offered an entry point into the rural industry."
He sold two former Leitch Pastoral Group properties, Ennisclare and Stonehenge, prior to auction last Friday.
"Stonehenge in the Millmerran area was also sold, both properties were offered bare and Stonehenge had been destocked since March."
Meanwhile Herron Todd White valuer Stephen Cameron said the unusually large volume of property which came onto the market with the collapse of Leitch Pastoral Group had impacted on already depressed land prices.
He said the fact the properties were offered by receivers in a relatively small geographic area on an already subdued market had had implications for land values.
"I think 30-40% is a fair market discount in the circumstances and it's not just the Leitch Pastoral Group properties affected," Mr Cameron said.
"The trend across the state is for a 15% discount on 2008 prices and generally speaking the grazing market has been back 10 and potentially up to 50% in other areas.
"However with the sale of these last Leitch Pastoral Group properties we should see a return to 'normality' in terms of available properties on the Southern Downs.
"And once supply and demand marries up a little closer we will have a better indication of the Southern Downs rural property market."
The Leitch Pastoral Group portfolio once included:
North Springdale, Texas
Peak Vale, Texas
Hart aggregate, Wheatvale
Berrima feedlot, Elbow Valley
Burkes Rd feedlot, Killarney
Plus other unnamed grazing and cultivation blocks.