Client Story: David Cross

Client Story: David Cross

What lengths would you go to if you wanted to save a forest? That’s a question our client, David Cross, has spent the last five years of his life answering, as well as considerable sums of money – on a forest next to his family farm in Belvidere, SA.

David has expanded the forest from 67 to 110 acres by negotiating with three neighbours, and he’s currently securing a heritage title over the entire block so that it can never be developed. Without doubt it’s been one of Oreon Partners’ more unusual projects, and we are all delighted with the outcome.

An Important Early Memory

Everything started when David’s dad passed away in 2012, leaving David and his three siblings seven land titles over 10 acres that surround the family farm in Alexandrina (in between Strathalbyn and Langhorne Creek).  David then decided to buy the titles from his siblings.

“I remember playing in the forest block near to our family farm when I was a child – a precious memory,” he recalls. “I bought the land titles off my siblings so that I could use these to negotiate with my neighbours to secure and expand the forest. Things like that really matter to me, and I am also very motivated to protect the environment – safeguarding and enhancing this forest is an important environmental legacy.”

Alongside his savings, David cashed in his superannuation fund to buy out his siblings and finance the venture. He’s also successfully secured approximately $100,000 from federal and state government grants and private donors to help develop the forest further.

“I managed to trade some of the seven land titles with three neighbours who owned land next to the forest,” he says. “Also, instead of selling off parts of the family farm, I was able to trade a land title with my immediate neighbour, realigning some boundaries so I could develop three hectares of land to help fund things.”

A Complicated Challenge

The whole exercise turned out to involve quite a journey: Five years of dealing with lawyers, conveyancers, neighbouring landowners, the local council and state government.

“Once the legal side had been sorted, I was able to engage with several organisations such as Trees for Life to carry out direct seeding and plant tubestock, expanding the native forest beyond the initial forest of 67 acres to 110 acres,” notes David. “Getting the land recognised as a heritage title means that all the native animals and plants will be left in peace for the foreseeable future, safely sealed off from the rest of the world and from any potential of development.”

Aged 67, David is an Electrical Project Engineer for Alexandrina Council. Before that he was an electrician at Mitsubishi for over 20 years, so after working hard he’s been able to save some of the money needed to tackle this venture.

“I’m happy because I’ve got the outcome I was after,” he says. “Not every deal or project has to have a financial outcome, and this land is now secured against future development.  I love the world and nature and I think our land has been over stripped. I couldn’t stand by and do nothing, and if I don’t do this, who will? I am enjoying the peace of the forest, and it’s been great to show it to selected people such as a local nursery and garden groups.”

How Oreon Helped

Jarrad Dunn got involved when a town planner (Craig Rowe), who was working with David, realised the tax implications of a project like this. Craig was already one of Jarrad’s clients, so it was a natural fit to work together.

Jarrad says, “This was a challenging job, like a giant jigsaw puzzle. We really had to think outside the square, not least because David wasn’t doing any of this to make a profit, so we had to be careful about structuring things to not trigger taxes, and other government imposts which could have potentially wiped out the prospects of delivering the project.”

Oreon involved a range of different professionals including property lawyers and tax lawyers so that David didn’t come unstuck. In the end, David has retained the family farm at the same size, with slightly different boundaries, and as a bonus now pays annual council rates at 25% of their previous level.

David says Craig and Jarrad made a huge difference: “Craig had to literally rewrite the rule book with some of these land negotiations, and Jarrad’s reassurance and availability throughout basically meant I could sleep at night! He answered calls on vacation, was incredibly responsive and his tenacity, contacts and patience were second-to-none. The outcome has been several orders of magnitude beyond anything that I could have ever envisaged five years ago. We have together established a major environmental property at Belvidere, and basically ‘re-drawn the map’. I couldn’t be happier with the legacy I leave behind.”