Agribusiness investor David Williams has recently bought 718 hectares of prime agricultural land on the banks of the Derwent River sight unseen.
- Rural land prices in Tasmania have jumped 25 per cent per hectare in the past year
- The price increase is almost twice that of the national average
- Wineries and vineyards searching for a cooler climate are contributing to the price hike
Mr Williams, the founder of advisory firm Kidder Williams, is a well-known investor in water in Tasmania, but this is the first time he has bought agricultural land in the island state.
He paid $3 million for the property, while admitting he did not have a clear idea about its future use.
“I’m not sure what I’ll do with it,” Mr Williams said. “Whether I do something with sheep or cattle. It could be viticulture.
“All of the biggest winemakers in Australia want cool-climate fruit for chardonnay and pinot.
“I think in a very short time Tasmania has gone from producing some good wines … but now they’re probably the best pinots in the country by a long way, and right up there with the best chardonnays in the country.
Tasmanian Agri business investor David Williams.(
Supplied: Kidder Williams
Mr Williams said while he sees a future for viticulture he also sees fantastic opportunities in berries of all sorts and many other crops in the state.
“The whole of Tasmania is hot at the moment,” he said.
In the early 2000s, Mr Williams bought Tasmanian salmon farmer Tassal Group out of receivership and floated the company, but he quashed media speculation he intended to farm salmon from his new southern Tasmania property, saying “fish farming on the Derwent is fanciful”.
Huge farm sales reflect rising prices
The purchase comes as rural land prices in Tasmania skyrocket, with a 25 per cent jump per hectare in the past 12 months.
The annual Australian Farmland Values 2021 report has the median price per hectare of Tasmanian farmland well into record growth territory at 25.3 per cent in 2020.
Australian farmland prices soar
Just like the residential housing market, Australia’s farmland property market is running hot with a string of recent sales leaving onlookers “gobsmacked” at the amount of money changing hands.
That’s almost twice the national average which was 12.9 per cent.
Across the state, the northwest had the greatest increase, up 26.7 per cent. In the north, prices have not risen as much, but they have still jumped 21 per cent. In the south there has been little movement.
Mr Williams’ purchase comes as two major rural grazing properties in the northern midlands change hands for the first time in decades.
Mt Morriston at Toom’s Lake Road in Ross has reportedly sold for $21 million to its neighbour, Julian and Annabel Von Bibra — who are fourth-generation, fine wool growers — and another Northern Midlands family, the Millars.
Real Estate advertisements described the property as being extensively improved and with a focus on irrigation.
Another big sale in the works is a historic Stonehouse at Lemont in the Southern Midlands, which has reportedly sold for $47 million.
Demand outstrips supply
Dean Lalor from Rural Bank, the company that produced the report, said Tasmania’s farmland price growth was “remarkable”.
“There’s a real scarcity of farmland that’s coming up for sale. It’s tightly held, so when it does come on the market it’s tightly contested,” Mr Lalor said.
Elders Rural Real Estate Tasmania manager Allan Barr says there has been strong growth in demand for rural property by both investors and family-run businesses.
“There is no doubt that the demand outstrips supply,” he said.
Good commodity prices and a great season are playing a role but local farmers are also showing keen interest.
“We’re seeing family farming businesses play a significant role in growing their portfolio of properties, eagerly bidding for neighbouring properties to bolster production and accommodate the next generation returning to the land,” Mr Barr said.
Evandale Vineyard and Pipers River Vineyard, known as the Tasman Vineyards Aggregation, represents Tasmania’s largest vineyard development opportunity.(
Tasmanian farms ‘hot property’
Colliers Rural Agent Duncan McCulloch agrees that Tasmania’s agricultural land is hot property. He said that his company has probably sold a dozen properties in the past 12 months.
He says inquiries from people interstate are strong, with price per hectare still lower in Tasmania than other states.
“There’s been a real movement from a lot of wineries and vineyards looking for a better climate. That’s also driving prices,” said Mr McCulloch.
He is in the process of selling a 394-hectare aggregation of vineyards in the north of the state worth more than $10 million.
“There’s a lot of interest in Tasmanian rural land,” he said.