Parkes farmer warns of huge variations in lease amounts

A Parkes farmer who leases part of his property to a renewable energy company wants other landholders to do their homework when considering doing the same.

John Smeaton leases 213 hectares of his property to the company on which a solar farm has been built.

The lease is for 30 years with an option to renew for another 30.

John said he is very satisfied with the amount the company pays him per hectare per year for the use of his land.

"I thought that was a real good deal when they first approached us and offered it out of the blue," he said.

"As far as I'm concerned it is a very fair amount."

Even though John is happy with the amount he is receiving, it has come to his attention that other landowners with existing leases, and already erected solar farms, may not be doing as well.

"I want people to be aware of the variations that they are offering in rent," he said.

"I don't want anyone to be dudded."

After the solar farm was built, the land was recategorised from farmland to business and the value of it jumped fourfold. The cost of the annual rates also increased dramatically.

"Under the conditions of the lease, the company is responsible for the rates," John said.

"If an unsuspecting farmer does not stipulate that in any lease drawn up, it may be a nasty shock."

After the increase in valuation by the NSW Government, John had his land independently valued.

"The report shows a range of examples of valuations of properties with existing solar farms from around the state," John said.

"Some have been bought outright and some are leased.

"The amount of annual rent per hectare ranges from $70 to $2000 - that's a huge variation.

"I don't expect people to take extraordinary rents - and $2000 a hectare is extraordinary - but $70 per hectare is atrocious.

"That poor farmer has been well and truly been diddled."