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Farms fall outside sale ban, says ANZ

Farms fall outside sale ban, says ANZ
TWO  repossessed grain properties will be auctioned today by the ANZ, despite the bank’s pledge last week to bring an end to unpopular forced farm sales until the drought breaks.

Wyola and Mt Pleasant, ­adjoining farms between Surat and Condamine in central Queensland, are being sold by the ANZ to recoup $30 million owed by one of the largest and most well-known graingrowers, Rowell Walton. Receiver KordaMentha evicted Mr Walton from his five western Darling Downs farms in May. It sold three last month and the remaining two will go under the hammer in Dalby today.

Mr Walton, living in a ­rented unit in Toowoomba, was chairman of the national Rural Debt Roundtable working group. He is a former Queensland Nationals vice-president and friend of Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce. He stood as a Katter’s Australian Party Senate candidate last year.

Independent north Queensland MP Bob Katter yesterday calling for the forced sale of the two remaining Walton farms to be abandoned. Mr Katter said it was dishonest of the ANZ to announce last week’s 12-month moratorium on repossessions while continuing to sell properties owned by evicted dispossessed farmers such as Mr Walton.

“The banks ... can’t be trusted,” Mr Katter said. “I just hope this ANZ moratorium is not just more spin and weasel words.”

ANZ yesterday repeated its commitment to no new repossessions or foreclosures in drought-affected parts of north and western Queensland and northern NSW until December next year. ANZ spokesman Stephen Ries said the Walton farm sales had nothing to do with the moratorium and would go ahead.

He said the bank had foreclosed on the Walton farms in April and sent in KordaMentha to take over the management because of debts dating from 2009.

“This case is a very longstanding one; it’s not a new repossession and it isn’t even about drought,” Mr Ries said.

“But our drought moratorium is very genuine — it is not spin; we have clearly said there will be no new repossessions and we won’t be taking possession of any properties in drought areas for a year unless we already had them (in receivership).”

Mr Walton last week welcomed the ANZ’s moratorium as “marvellous” and said anything that stopped the “blood and guts” on the floor all over rural Australia because of forced farm evictions was a giant step forward. But he said it was too little, too late, especially if the moratorium did not alter the decision to auction his two remaining farms.

“Even now I’m sceptical about the moratorium; it seems to me the ANZ is just trying to look after its public image and brand and cut off the growing public push for a new rural reconstruction bank to be ­established by government,” Mr Walton said.

Mark Mentha of KordaMentha confirmed today’s auctions would go ahead, with the adjoining cropping properties ­expected to sell for more than $5 million­ ­together. Once the process started to recover a business’s debt — in this case $30m — it was­ ­impossible to “unscramble the egg”.

Author: Sue Neales
Source: The Australian


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