Queensland-based investor QIC, which is building out its natural capital investment platform, has purchased the 8,300 ha Stuart’s Creek property, located northwest of Roma, Queensland.
In a statement, QIC said it acquired the asset as a beef grazing operation with registered carbon baselines and sequestration strategies in place. The potential for a return upside from generating carbon credits was always touted by Packhorse during its fundraisings as a major selling point for investors.
Agri Investor understands that the asset has been acquired by QIC’s Queensland Natural Capital Fund, the vehicle’s second such deal after the purchase of a 600-ha irrigated sugar cane property near Mackay, QLD in 2022. The Queensland government’s Land Restoration Fund has made a foundation commitment to the QCNF which funded the purchases.
Fundraising for the Queensland Natural Capital Fund, QIC’s inaugural closed-end commingled fund focused on agriculture, is still ongoing. The fund has a target of at least A$500 million ($332 million; €302 million).
QIC declined to comment on the status of the QCNF and only referred to its “natural capital platform” in statements.
On the Stuart’s Creek deal, QIC head of natural capital Tom Murphy said in a statement: “Packhorse is a recognized leader in carbon farming and that legacy is not lost on any of us.
“In Stuart’s Creek, we acquire a solid foundation to explore environmental market opportunities that are complementary to the existing traditional cattle grazing operations. This is prime agricultural land that also has significant areas registered for sequestration, offering the best of both worlds in cattle and carbon.
“We welcome the opportunity to continue collaborations with academic, environmental and industry groups to support new and existing biodiversity projects on site. There is a genuine alignment of the Packhorse vision and QIC’s Natural Capital platform, giving us great confidence in carrying on this important work to deliver positive commercial and environmental outcomes.”
The sale of Stuart’s Creek brings the Packhorse Pastoral Company story to an end, after it sold its other two assets – the 8,371 ha Ottley Station near Inverell in New South Wales and the 10,029 ha Moolan Downs Aggregation near Roma, QLD – for around A$80 million to Hancock Agriculture, the private firm owned by Australian billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart, in May 2023.
The dismantling of the Packhorse portfolio was prompted by the death of co-founder and executive director Tom Strachan in 2022. The firm had initial success in rapidly acquiring its three assets, funding those deals with a first fundraise that closed on A$65 million in July 2021 before two other subsequent raises.
Packhorse Pastoral Company managing director Geoff Murrell said in a statement: “The sale of Stuart’s Creek has delivered strong shareholder returns and the compatibility of a new land steward to continue building on the solid regenerative agricultural practices Packhorse had underway.
“Packhorse had registered 20,000na of land with the Clean Energy Regulator that is primed for carbon sequestration. We are fortunate to have collaborated with some notable partners and industry experts to establish an exceptional foundation for biodiversity above and below the ground.”
A Packhorse spokeswoman referred enquiries about the sale to QIC.