Earlier this year the Australian Government announced changes to and recently updated its guidance notes on the rules governing the acquisition of agricultural land by foreign investors.
Foreign investors now need to demonstrate that the agricultural land they intend to acquire has been part of a public sales process and marketed widely to potential Australian bidders for a minimum of 30 days (within the six months immediately prior to the agreement date) and that Australian bidders have had an opportunity to participate in the sale process.
The few exceptions to the new rules include where the foreign investor has a 50 per cent or more Australian ownership share, is undertaking an internal reorganisation, is allowing Australian investors to participate (for example, under a leaseback arrangement that includes a pre-emptive right to buy back the property) or is acquiring a leasehold interest for a wind or solar farm.
The second report on the Register of Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land has also recently been released.
The report shows that the proportion of agricultural land with a level of foreign ownership has fallen from 14.1 per cent at 30 June 2016 to 13.6 per cent at 30 June 2017. The United Kingdom remains the largest foreign agricultural land holder, followed by China and the United States of America.
Author: Hannah Barbour (former Senior Associate)