Floods, drought force Darling Downs grain giant to fold

ICONIC Darling Downs farmer Rowell Walton is broke, with $30 million of debt driving him from the land he has worked for 31 years.

After a meeting with ANZ bank on April 11, Mr Walton was told he and his wife Debbie had 30 days to leave their family home at Yulabilla station, allowing receivers KordaMentha to take over his grain-growing operation.

His two sons, Gavin and Robert, will also need to be off the land by the end of May, after 14 years working with their father.

Mr Walton's stations - Yullabilla, Undulla, Mt Pleasant and Wyola - will all be forcibly sold in the next six months.

"As a family, it's an extraordinarily difficult thing to have to deal with," Mr Walton said.

"But there are many more (foreclosures) on the way.

"It will be something akin to a tsunami once it gets rolling."

About 10 years ago, Mr Walton was one of many local farmers to take a chance on the large loans which sucked many businesses into the Global Financial Crisis, hoping to expand his business and repay the debt around 2010.

Gavin, Rowell and Robert Walton are facing hard times following ANZ's decision to put the property into receivership.
Gavin, Rowell and Robert Walton are facing hard times following ANZ's decision to put the property into receivership. Alasdair Young

When the floods hit that year, followed by drought, he started falling behind on his repayments, compounding debt.

Though the land is greening today, it is too little too late for Mr Walton to make good on his debts.

As chairman of the national Rural Debt Roundtable, former Queensland National Party vice-president and one of the largest grain farmers in Queensland, Mr Walton lobbied passionately for a government solution to Australia's $66 billion farming debt crisis.

AgAssist consultant Rod Saal has more than 40 years experience working with farmers across south-west Queensland, and said many local farms were carrying millions of dollars in debt.

Mr Saal believed heavily indebted Condamine farmers could be at risk if their equity dropped as a result of the sale of the Waltons' holdings.

He explained that once banks began making concessions, it was standard practice to sharply raise the interest rate on debt, accelerating the debt spiral until a forced sale of the business was inevitable.

"It's a terrible thing to do to a family," he said.

"The trouble is, you need capital to keep your farming equipment up to date. This means if you miss a crop you're in real strife."

Topics:  condamine darling downs debt farming grain

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

What's on in the Western Downs

LOOKING SHARP: Robyn Haig, Trudi Webster, Sally Thompson, Amanda Maurice and Kim Bowman were all looking the part for last year's Melbourne Cup Day.

What's on in the Western Downs.

This week's Pound Pets

DOUBLE TROUBLE: These two female bull arab cross puppies are bursting with energy (and mischief). They are both between 10-12 weeks old and have not had any of their vaccinations.

Looking to add a furry new addition to your family?

Alarming hit rate for drug driving operation

Police generic.  Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

Police alarmed by numbers of drug drivers on Chinchilla roads

Local Partners

QGC ordered to pipe down by government

Fines for wilfully contravening an Enironmental Protection Order run into the millions of dollars for corporations.

WATCH: NASA space station is live, see the view from above

In this picture taken from NASA's International Space Station from April 2015, the SpaceX Dragon is captured with the 57.7-foot-long Canadarm2 robotic arm before its installation to the Harmony module.

See the world from a new perspective as space station passes Rocky

Community garden set for Palmwoods

Kay Nixon at the Palmwoods Community Gardens will be hosting a launch day and inviting the ecommunity to come along and sign up.

Parcel of land to supply sustainable gardening for community

Barry Gibb is coming to Bluesfest 2017

FANS: Barry Gibb talks to a fan next to a cardboard cutout of his young self.

Aged 70, Gibb has re-launched his solo music career with a new album

Hacksaw Ridge leads AACTA Awards nominations

Andrew Garfield and Teresa Palmer in a scene from the movie Hacksaw Ridge.

MEL Gibson's wartime drama opens in cinemas next week.

ABBA to reunite for virtual live experience


ABBA have confirmed they are to reunite - in virtual reality form

Hugh Laurie receives star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hugh Laurie on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hugh Laurie and his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Blake Lively hosts 40th party for Ryan Reynolds

Blake Lively throws husband Ryan Reynold's 40th birthday bash

What's on the big screen this week

Benedict Cumberbatch in a scene from the movie Doctor Strange.

MARVEL'S latest superhero Doctor Strange makes his debut.

Trump 'worked like hell' to pick up John Travolta's wife

John Travolta and Kelly Preston

Trump wrote comments in tribute to Travolta's son Jett

Tough times in CBD: Woolies says goodbye Ipswich

Woolworths in the Ipswich Mall.Photo: Rob Williams / The Queensland Times

The last day of trading will be January 1

Look at me! Kath and Kim home up for sale

Kath and Kim from the iconic Aussie TV series.

'Crack open the Baileys and grab a box of BBQ Shapes'

How to fit 100,000 new homes on the Coast

Property, real estate, housing, suburb,  August 2016

Fitting 2m extra people in south-east Qld in 25 years a balance

Hinterland horse stud passed in for $8.25 million

UNREAL: This Maleny estate is incredible.

12-bedroom hinterland horse stud still available

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June