Benedictine Community to sell New Norcia Farms

Liz Wells, September 22, 2021

New Norcia Farms is for sale for the first time in its long history. Photo: Ray White Rural WA

THE Benedictine Community is selling a prime and sizeable portion of mixed farming land surrounding New Norcia, Australia’s only monastic town.

The Western Australian settlement aimed to be a largely self-sufficient village based on agriculture for the Benedictine monks who established it in 1847, and for the indigenous inhabitants of the region.

While the township is being retained and will continue on the tourism path it ventured down in the 1980s, the 7975-hectare farm is being sold to fund the community’s redress owed for historical abuse.

Trees, crops, grazing

Being marketed as New Norcia Farm, it is 132 kilometres north of Perth, and has listed with Ray White Rural WA.

The farm comprises around 3698ha of arable land, two pine plantations and a sandalwood plantation covering 83ha in total, and grazing country now being used for sheep.

Single frontage to the Moore River is a feature of the property, which is divided into 50 paddocks, most with access to dam or bore water, and connected via laneways.

Improvements include a six-stand shearing shed, two fertiliser sheds and a machinery shed.

New Norcia Farm has in recent years had a focus on cropping, and produces mainly canola and cereals with an annual average rainfall of around 520 millimetres.

Remnant vegetation includes open woodlands comprising mostly Wandoo and York gum, as well as acacia, mallee and melaleuca, and also banksia sandplains.

The property has been leased since 2016, and settlement will occur in March 2023 at the conclusion of the current arrangement.

BJW Agribusiness’ Tim Johnston, who has consulted to the Benedictine Community in regard to New Norcia Farm in recent years, said the offering also included improved pastures and some “absolutely pristine bush” which added to its carbon assets.

Mr Johnston said its history as a farming enterprise spoke for itself.

“The early selections were all on the best soil types, because there was no fertiliser around in those early days to help things along,” Mr Johnston said.

New Norcia Farm has double frontage to the Great Northern Highway, which Mr Johnston said gave it easy access to domestic customers in Perth, and to the CBH Metro site at Forrestfield.

“You can also deliver direct to the CBH site at Calingiri.”

Calingiri is about 30km south-east of New Norcia.

New Norcia Farm is expected to attract interest from corporates which are still adding to their WA portfolios, and expanding family farms.

“The rural property market here is dominated by family farmers buying; they’re a bit more nimble than the corporates in this environment.”

Last year, Grain Central reported that WA’s best farming country was fetching $3500-$4000/ha.

Given a firming in the market for cropping country and sheep prices since then, New Norcia Farm is widely expected to achieve well in excess of $4000/ha, and an expected sale figure north of $35 million has been reported in WA.

New Norcia Farm is for sale through an expressions-of-interest campaign closing on November 4.

In a statement released on September 14, the Benedictine Community said:

Due to its liabilities relating to redress for historical abuse, the Benedictine Community of New Norcia has made the difficult decision to sell the majority of its farm.

The sale excludes the heritage precinct on which the monastery and town site sits, and the adjacent land containing the service infrastructure for this precinct.

It is anticipated that this sale will generate sufficient capital to meet our commitment to redress, and enough capital injection into the organization to sustain New Norcia well into the future.

The community has entrusted the process of this sale to Tim Johnston of our long-term farm consultants BJW Agribusiness, and agent Steve Vaughan of Ray White.

The community takes this opportunity to acknowledge the countless people – monks, staff, Aboriginal and European farm workers (including ticket-of-leave men), former students, tenants, consultants and volunteers – involved in operating the farm for the past 174 years, we are truly grateful.

There will be no further comment.


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