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BACKGROUND TO WESTERN LAND LEASES
In Far Western NSW the 1884 Homestead Land Leases had introduced the idea of government supervision of land use along with a restriction of free selection.Unfortunately their start coincided with a period of drought, low wool prices and the rabbit plague. The squatters had been forced to set aside half their land for possible leasehold selection. A large part of this resumed area (RA) was not taken up by the 10,240 acre Homestead Lessees; it became a breeding ground for rabbits.
The 1889 Amendment to Farnell's Land Act was an attempted relief measure. It gave larger areas to selectors, allowed renewals to squatters who now became known as graziers, and it set up a Land Court to settle any disputes.
The grazing potential of western NSW continued to deteriorate. The carrying capacity of the land was often overestimated. Vast sums were spent on improvements; heavy debts were incurred. By 1891 half of all the Western Division Leases (and probably a higher percentage of leases west of the Darling) were mortgaged to banks or pastoral finance companies (Slater R.O. Arid Lands of Australia 1969). These companies sometimes assumed ownership of foreclosed properties.
The Carruther's Land Act of 1894 gave the unused resumed areas back to the graziers as part of their Pastoral Lease until such time as it was actually needed for settlement. The Act also proposed to give long leases a secure tenure on an improvement basis (Improvement Leases).
THE WESTERN LANDS ACT
The Western Lands Act was passed in 1901. The Western Lands Board was set up to administer all land in the West Division - both Western Land Leases and land that continued to be held under the Crown Lands Acts. In 1900 all 316 Pastoral Leases in the Western Division had expired. The West was in the grip of the 1895 to 1902 drought.
THE WESTERN LAND LEASES
Western Land Leases were introduced under the Western Lands Act of 1901. They offered SECURITY OF TENURE FOR 40 YEARS. The rate of their rental was to be determined according to the condition of each individual lease.
WHO COULD APPLY FOR A WESTERN LAND LEASE
1. Those who ALREADY HELD A LEASE OR LICENCE in the area. These were mainly Pastoral and Homestead Lessees. However the story of land legislation is bewildering chaos. In the Western Land Leases there are 17 DIFFERENT TYPES OF LAND TENURE to be considered (see accompanying list of 1907 Western Lands Leases) - Pastoral Leases, Homestead Leases, Improvement Leases, Scrub Leases, Inferior Lands Leases, Occupational Licences, Leases under Section 32 of the Western Lands Act, Leases under Part 7 of the Western Lands Act, Permissive Occupancy, Settlement Leases, Artesian Wells Leases, New Special Leases, Converted Special Leases, Homestead Selections, Homestead Grants, Residential Leases and the Western Land Leases themselves.
2. Application could be made to ACQUIRE CROWN LANDS.
3. Homestead Leases could BE EXTENDED or ADDITIONAL HOMESTEAD LEASES could be taken up to become part of a Western Land Lease. This explains why the Western Land Leases granted in 1907 number 985 but represent 1,099 Homestead Leases.
TO ACQUIRE A WESTERN LAND LEASE
To bring their ALREADY HELD LEASE OR LICENCE under the Act (Sections 13 and 14) and to have it become a Western Lands Lease(WLL), the applicant had to lodge Form 1, initially by the 30th June 1902. The form was to be accompanied by a fee of one pound.
- Name, Address, Lease or Licence Number of Holder.
- Name and address of all persons with any legal or equitable interest in the lease.
- What interest they hold and where the documentation is held.
- They must be prepared to produce all accounts,sales accounts,deeds,mortgages.securities and conveyancing as the Board or Commissioner may require and information relating to stock which have been or are depastured on the landand,the estimated date of any erection of any improvement on the land.
- An applicant to LEASE CROWN LAND as a WLL had to complete Form 2 and accompany it with a DEPOSIT OF 20% of the first year's Provisional Rental. The availability of the Crown Land was advertised by the Western Lands Board.
- To apply for an EXTENSION OF THE AREA OF A HOMESTEAD LEASE or to get permission to HOLD ONE OR MORE HOMESTEAD LEASES (HLs) under the Western Lands Act under Section 32 or 34 of the Western Lands Act the Applicant had to fill in Form 3.
- Name, Address, Marital status.
- Land held in the Western Division and elsewhere and how you came into possession of it.
- Bone fide and exclusive occupation of all or any of this land.
- Is this land sufficient to maintain your home and livelihood?
- To whom is any of this land sublet?
To be completed by Homestead Lessee applicants for WLL to certify that they had complied with the CONDITIONS OF RESIDENCY.
To be completed for consent TO EFFECT IMPROVEMENTS and to acquire TENANT-RIGHTS therein (Improvement Leases).
To give notice to APPEAR BEFORE THE WESTERN LAND BOARD.
The Provisional WLL Rentals were much greater than the determined rentals. However because of the prevailing drought conditions it was likely that the normal Rentals would have reduced anyway. The 1904-1905 WLLs have been listed as they represent the true rental rate. Original Western Land Lease Holders whose names no longer appear in the 1904-1905 figures are also included.
If a WLL had to be forfeited all improvements became the property of the Crown.
Crown Improvements can be paid by installments including the principal and the interest at a rate of 5% per annum.
THE EFFECTS OF THE WESTERN LAND ACT OF 1901
The Western Lands Act of 1901 had a widespread effect on the settlement in the Far West of NSW. While most Pastoral Leases were simply transferred into Western Land Leases, the Homestead Lease to Western Land Lease was more complex. In some cases there was the same straight HL to WLL transfer. The availability of some of the offered Resumed Areas for WLLs seems to have tempted some from their previously held HLs (thus leaving their HLs open for others). The once restricted 10240 acre Homestead Leaseholders were now able to apply for an extension of the size of their land or even to have an additional lease or leases beyond the previous size restrictions. There is no reference in the Government Gazettes to the individual transfer of these leaseholdings-just the name of the new Western Leaseholder (or mortgagee) is given.
HOMESTEAD LEASEHOLDER/WESTERN LAND LEASEHOLDER DISCREPANCIES
By early 1905 a third of the HL-WLLs were mortgaged.Of the remainder only about a half were in the hands of the original lessees.Many of the leaseholds had been transferred or sold, but as this does not appear in the Gazettes, unexplained changes of ownership seem to occur.
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Last updated on 04 March 2004