Former ‘Sovereign’ Nation Is for Sale
By Mollie Tracey
‘UNIQUE’ is often over used by real estate agents, but it is perhaps the most accurate word to describe this property.
This property is not so unique for its land, but for its uncommon history as most would know it as the Hutt River Province, Northampton.
In 1970 the principality claimed to be an independent sovereign nation by (self-proclaimed) prince Leonard Casley, although was never recognised as such by the Federal government.
Earlier this year the principality was closed due to COVID-19 and last month was dissolved and the property was listed for sale.
Leonard’s son Graeme, also dubbed a prince, has spent most of his life living and working on the property, which now covers 6105 hectares.
He said his family developed the property and also farmed at Mullewa and near Kalbarri.
They cropped up to 20,000ha, once ran a flock of 12,000 Merino sheep and had about 200 head of cattle, as well as having a contract harvesting business.
“I have experienced the good and bad times in farming,” Graeme Casley said.
“I love farming – it’s a good life but you’ve got to be careful not to stress too much.”
Mr Casley said he had enjoyed living and working on the property, mostly because of its connection to his family.
“It would be lovely to keep it for the family,” said Mr Casley, who is one of seven children.
“I guess I had a different sort of upbringing, growing up in the principality as a teenager, but we had lots of visitors and made lots of friends.
“It was great to meet people from different nationalities and the tourism that it brought did the local area quite a lot of good over the years.”
The Hutt River Province was a popular tourist destination, as visitors could learn about the history of the principality, meet the ‘royal’ family, have their passport stamped and it even had its own currency.
The principality was often visited by delegates of other nations and nine overseas film and documentary crews went through the province.
Leonard was even invited to the Vatican for a three-night stay with his Hutt River passport – a very rare invitation to receive.
But Mr Casley said Hutt River had been on an economic decline for various years, regardless of its battle with the Australia Taxation Office (ATO) and the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2017 the family lost a court case against the ATO and was ordered to pay $3 million in income tax, penalties and interest.
“The ATO had a small influence (in Hutt River’s decline) but tourism had been subdued for a while before that and then COVID-19 happened and it all stopped,” Mr Casley said.
“If we were to get serious about farming, it would cost too much to bring the property up to standard or to invest in machinery.”
Elders Real Estate sales specialist Kris Teakle is handling the sale and said the property would appeal to farmers, investors and also has tourism appeal with the accommodation and administrative buildings.
“An astute investor will have the choice to enhance the farmland and infrastructure to improve on what’s there now or lease out the settlement area for any number of commercial ventures,” Ms Teakle said.
“The location of the property has the Coral Coast only a short drive away and boasts stunning flora and fauna, plus the prized marron that are in the Hutt River itself (which runs through the property).”