Indigenous pastoral enterprise looks to diversify and grow

20 Sep, 2016 11:00 AM
A NIPE stockman works cattle at Merepah Station in Far North Queensland.
A NIPE stockman works cattle at Merepah Station in Far North Queensland.

EXPANDING supply chain opportunities and diversifying its thinking about the ways land can be brought into production is high on the agenda for one of the country’s largest cattle businesses, the forward-looking National Indigenous Pastoral Enterprises.

NIPE’s new chief executive officer Craig North said projects such as growing fodder to supply its own cattle and bringing land into carbon credit schemes were examples of how the organisation was looking to grow.

He also flagged horticulture and aquaculture, and a move more into southern Australia, as possibilities for NIPE, due to the type of indigenous-held land available.

NIPE, the agribusiness arm of the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC), is an operating entity, with its 14 businesses - most of them cattle businesses in northern Australia - either owned by the parent company or by indigenous interests.

It runs more than 90,000 head of Brahman and Brahman-cross cattle across more than two million hectares, with 25000 head sold last financial year.

Around 65 per cent went to live export markets, mostly Indonesia and Vietnam, with the rest sold domestically.

NIPE also has operates one of the largest live export cattle depots near the Port Of Broome and a cattle and and buffalo abattoir at Gunbalanya in the Northern Territory.

And it has a sheep operation on Bruny Island, off Tasmania.

The abattoir is relatively small, processing between 25 and 30 beasts a week, on leased land.

Seven of the properties NIPE is involved with have Aboriginal owners and a leasing arrangement.

“While we have traditionally leased back, we are looking more at joint ventures and equity partnerships with Aboriginal people to increase the flexibility with which we can work with indigenous people to get agribusinesses up and running,” Mr North said.

A Central Queenslander, with extensive family links to cattle station work and property management, Mr North studied environmental science and management at university and was formerly the ILC’s executive director of national program delivery.

He said from the perspective of being a beef producer, the future looked very bright and there was plenty of confidence about.

“NIPE has been operating for 15 years now and we are well-placed to grow and diversify into new areas of agribusiness,” he said.

There was not one single aspect of cattle station management that leds to profitability but rather a combination of many, he said.

“Production cycles and the costs around those, market conditions, management of genetics and being on the front foot with technology - all these things dictate profitability,” Mr North said.

“The ability to diversify into the right areas is also important.

“For NIPE, there are other business objectives as well. Profit is not the single driver of our operations, although we do work hard on the commercial aspect.

“Driving indigenous employment and investment back onto indigenous land is core to our business.”

NIPE assists indigenous landholders to increase economic development and employment opportunities for themselves and future generations.

ILC chairperson Eddie Fry said NIPE was looking to capitalise on the growing demand for beef in what was shaping up to be a great period for the northern cattle industry.

The appointment of Mr North was an important step in its plans to grow and diversify, he said.

“NIPE wants to expand its business footprint through putting more existing Aboriginal-owned land into production - that’s where the real opportunities lie,” Mr Fry said.

“We are continually looking at forging partnerships with existing indigenous landholders and other industry partners.

“The new CEO will have a key role in strategically growing and diversifying our businesses and ensuring they employ indigenous people not only in entry level positions but also at supervisory and management levels.”

Shan Goodwin

Shan Goodwin

is the national beef writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media.


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Sorry did i get it wrong..? Rankins Springs is still open..?!
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No doubt a few frosted Freddies out there who will wish they had taken a closer look at the AGC
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Matthew, I was wondering if you had followed up this story with the farmer after the whole