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BFCSA; NAB and grab - PRIESTLEY The Farmers Story

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NAB – PRIESTLEY The Farmers Story


26/7/13 - UPDATE from Claire - the farms were taken over three weeks after the close of tender by our neighbors and we have not been advised of the sale price.

Chris and Claire Priestley are siblings from Carinda near Walgett in NSW. They are third generational farmers, having been in the Carinda and Brewarrina areas for over 100 years. 

Carinda is the little outback town featured in the David Bowie song “Lets Dance” 

They grew up on the family farm “Salt Glen” that was part of five adjoining properties, a mixed farming business of beef cattle, cotton and wheat. 

In 2004 they purchased three of these properties from their father located on the lower Macquarie river where the Barwon and Castlereagh rivers converge making it a gem site for water access in this part of the Murray Darling Basin, similar to Cubby Station. This purchase was enabled by the National Australia Bank in Walgett during the worst drought in the Federations history and when Cotton and Wheat prices were still ordinary. Within 10 days of applying for the loans the NAB had offered them an overdraft and Bill facility. Drought continued until end of 2009. 

The NAB is the biggest agribusiness lender in Australia and promotes its commitment to agriculture every week in the Land Magazine. 

The NAB executive summary of August 2004 states “I believe your goals of committing to irrigated agriculture by buying your own farm, to build your long term wealth, can be met”. When the Priestley's could finally build their long term wealth when the drought finally did break this statement by the NAB proved to be false and misleading. 

The business grew two irrigated cotton crops in 2004 and 2005, however prices were still low. Due to the drought sufficient water for cotton did not return until the end of 2009. When water was available in 2010 to grown irrigated cotton again, the NAB refused. 

The Priestley's belief that the NAB were there to assist them grow their business was supported when in 2006 the NAB approved the purchase of a joining property creating a neat square of four properties that were located on both sides of the Macquarie river. 

In 2008 they grew their first harvestable wheat crop meeting predicted budgets, but in 2009 the NAB refused to finance crops. Upon reflection the NAB had inserted impossible repayment terms in a 2008 loan document giving the bank the excuse to deem them unviable even though in 2004 the Priestley's were led to believe the NAB were there for the long term of at least 15 years. In 2008 the NAB got the Priestley’s to sign without legal advice a new contract that without explanation changed the repayment dates of the loans. 

The NAB expected the Priestley's to refinance when the drought still continued and the GFC meant other lenders were not interested in refinancing them. The NAB take government interest subsidies of about $470,000.00 since 2004 and then told the Priestley's to refinance when they were still drought declared.  

On Boxing Day 2009 the drought broke with flooding, giving the best seasonal opportunity to grow cotton and wheat and provide a remedy to the debt. The NAB Agribusiness promotions include the NAB Wealth Team for farmers created in 2005, the Priestley's were offered no such service. Contrary to NAB promotions of structuring interest repayments to farm income never applied to the Priestley loan and before they knew it the NAB had conveniently defaulted them even though at the time of default they had equity in wheat sales of about $300,000.00. 

In January 2010 discussions took place where the NAB Agribusiness managers refused to look at the farms and witness the large amounts of water in the Macquarie river that should have been utilized for cotton production, and the high moisture levels for wheat. 

The managers told the Priestley's to sell without any crops in the ground. 

In April 2010 the Priestley’s made complaints about their unfair treatment, and under their contract the Code of Banking Practice must investigate all complaints, these complaints were ignored and they were served Farm Debt Mediation which is the commencement of enforcement action. 

In May 2010 the Priestley's wrote a detailed letter of complaints about their agribusiness managers to Cameron Clyne NAB CEO, Mr Clyne did not instruct his staff to investigate these complaints but rather his staff advised Farm Debt Mediation is the proper forum. Here the contract had been breached. Farm Debt Mediation is not mentioned in the Code of Banking Practice and is not a free service as the Code commits to. Farm Debt Mediation is not the proper forum for investigating complaints as committed to in the contract under the Code of Banking Practice. Farm Debt Mediation does not make up part of the contract as the Code of Banking Practice does. Farm Debt Mediation is not included in the ASIC definitions of External Dispute Resolution serviced. Farm Debt Mediation is not for the investigation of complaints about the two managers, especially when they went to the mediation. 

Defying the NAB and their unreasonable demands, the Priestley's refused to sell and sowed 9,300 acres of wheat in May 2010, a crop worth $4million due to the unbelievably good season and prices hitting a high. As punishment for refusing to sell they were served Farm Debt Mediation. 

Farm Debt Mediation took place in July 2010. This mediation was controlled by the NAB, they were forced to sign a confidentiality agreement and forced to sign an agreement that had obligations that if breached meant that enforcement action was to continue. The NAB refused to look at cotton budgets, applied penalty interest rates up to 18% and required $1million from the 2010 wheat crop that they refused to finance. If the Priestley's did not agree court was the only option under Farm Debt Mediation. Farm Debt Mediation makes no concession for natural disasters.  

The second natural disaster flooding event hit again in November 2010 and reduced the value of this crop to about $800k and making Farm Debt Mediation obligations impossible to meet. The 2010 wheat crop was the best ever grown, worth at least $4million. 

The Priestley’s therefore breached their Farm Debt Mediation and in 2011 the NAB told them to sell again without any assistance to present the farms for sale properly with crops in the ground. They refused to look at new budgets based on cotton being worth $1000 a bale, the highest on record. 

In July 2011 the Priestley's advised NAB of a potential sale or part sale to the local Aboriginal Community’s of Walgett and Brewarrina for Crime Prevention Training programs with incredible community support. 

The Priestley's asked Cameron Clyne for assistance as NAB is at the forefront of Reconciliation Action plans, the two directors Daniel Gilbert and Mark Joiner being leaders in such Aboriginal Pastoral training programs. Cameron Clyne refused the request for a financial planner with Indigenous expertise. Rather the Agribusiness manager gave the Priestley’s until November 30, 2011 to achieve this sale. This was never going to be long enough for the interested group to comply with the required studies and finance applications. 

In November 2011 the Priestley’s put the farms up for sale by auction. The two interested buyers refused to pay for the whole of the four properties due to a sub-division that had not gone through and could take up to twelve months. The auction was a waste of time however this was done to show the NAB they had tried to fit in with them. Because they were unable to sell the NAB deemed this as the perfect excuse to start possession. 

The Priestley's asked the NAB to discuss the Aboriginal proposal and wait for their feasibility study to be completed in about April 2012. The NAB refused to discuss it and commenced court action in the Supreme Court on 6 February 2012. This is the bank that has its own NAB Reconciliation Action Plan and its director Daniel Gilbert launched the Gilbert and Tobin Reconciliation Action Plan. Seems like another NAB promotion with no substance.

 The Priestleys father Gordon Priestley died in Brewarrina Hospital on February 19, 2012 without them by his side as the NAB refused to adjourn the possession proceedings, the NAB still tried to get possession on February 20, 2012 even after the court had been advised of Gordon Priestley’s death. Their father’s dying wish was for them to fight it to the end, as it was Gordon Priestley who had acquired this land the NAB were so determined to take from them. 

1n 2012 the Priestley's tried to get their defences heard, however with minimal legal advice this was not possible and the court gave default judgment to the NAB. They have never had their day in court with the NAB always successfully having their amended defences struck out. 

In December 2012 the Priestley's applied to the Court to have a Stay granted on the writs of possession and a new defence, based on the breach of contract due to the Code of Banking Practice being bound by a secret contract causing the contract to be misleading and deceptive. Justice Garling refused their application even though his Judgment says:What [the Priestley's] have put before the Court on this application is certainly deserving of close attention by the senior management of the NAB, because if the Priestley's are correct, and their complaints have not been listened to and dealt with appropriately, then the NAB may well be exposed to both, damage to its reputation and as well, suggestions that its publicity campaign which describes itself as "the leading Agri-Business bank" may not have any substance. 

The NAB went ahead with eviction on January 31, 2013 knowing the Judgment was very wrong, knowing they had breached the contract. Two Sheriffs, two body guards, two locksmiths removed them from their home. The NAB took their land and their net asset worth $5million in 2004 leaving them homeless and with a toxic name. This is not the bank for all seasons. As the biggest agribusiness lenders they could have renegotiated the loans to utilize the turn around in seasons from 2010 onwards. The attached article features an interview with Shane Dowton the manager who refused to look at a cotton budget in 2010, he is now saying how farmers are moving on because their reservoirs are full. The Priestley's have lost 4 cotton crops due to Shane Dowton not cooperating with them.

An expert report comments on the NAB inaction: The net operational surpluses that could have been realised if operating capital had been forthcoming to the River Staation Partnership from 2009 until the present time is in the order of $3.67 million for grain enterprises and $5.42 million for the irrigated cotton enterprise. In total these equate to a figure of $9.09 million [with supplementary income obtainable from a 5,000 hectare grazing enterprise].

This is not an insignificant amount and one that … would have been sufficient for the River Staation Partnership to meet its obligations with financiers and other creditors, pay down debt levels and allow it to progress to a more secure basis of operating into the future with greater equity. 

In May 2013 The Priestley's tried to appeal the Garling Judgment by themselves but were refused leave to appeal. At no stage has the NAB lawyers ever had to answer the serious allegations made by the Priestley's. All they have ever done is present a Statement of Claim to the court, without  even presenting to the court a copy of the 2008 contract that they rely on. The Priestley's have not had their day in court due to ridiculous errors of laws that have had nothing to do with the truth behind the misleading contracts the NAB inflicted on them. 

Now their farms are being advertised for sale by tender. The farms have not been presented to gain proper market value, no wheat crops, no water in the 200 acre reservoir. When water was available to pump the designated agent claimed the Macquarie water licences cant be used if there is flood water in the river, thus potential buyers will not be guaranteed of this seasons cotton crop, obviously an agent not capable of properly marketing this prime agricultural property. Underselling these farms appears to be the priority.

It is a crime to let agricultural land is Australia sit for four years not producing when global food shortage is such a problem at present.

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  • doyla66
    doyla66 Thursday, 25 July 2013

    This is just another barbaric act of the Nab and I really feel for the Priestly,s. My husband and I have been persecuted, harrassed and intimidated by Nab. They just don,t stop their terrorist actions. Mr. Clyne is rude and discourteous. Doesn,t bother evenn to acknowledge your emails. we were never offered any mediation at all. No hardship discussions for us. Nab even tried to sell our equipment. Valuation $150k nab let it go for $16k. Court was a disgrace. Nab bought in the heavy suits. Absolutely ridiculous. Barristers bill would be more than twice the value of property. That's smart business isn,t it.

  • doyla66
    doyla66 Friday, 26 July 2013

    Are NAB so desperate for money that they will destroy lives and livelihoods for unmitigated greed?

    This story is so distressing that I can't read much more of the details at present.
    I have the impression that the Priestley family would feel like the Law and the NAB almost conspire to destroy their past, present and future and rob them of their heritage and home. I believe they have been denied natural justice and the opportunity to explore every possibility for a solution to their situation.
    This is not an isolated case. I have read NAB case after NAB case - they seem to follow a pattern.
    NABbedNanna, Matt Norman, Rosie Cornell, Gypsy, Tess Lawrence ... and I'm sure others can add more of their friends to this list.
    It is not enough that these brave souls are heroes of the Bank Wars and victims of the Banksters.
    Who will house and feed them, their families and their animals after the NAB has raped and pillaged their lives?
    Not our Australian government - and certainly not ASIC! - all too busy studying the heavens for signs of climate change or telling Europe how to be as prosperous as Australian through diligent fund manager supervision! (cough, cough)
    What is the economic imperative that drives NAB to undertake such action against their former clients and borrowers?
    If not an economic imperative, then what? Their need for a power fix, a show of "muscle" and legal machismo?
    Why aren't our politicians stopping this conduct through their advocacy or powers to prevent further liquidation of valuable Australian farmland and destruction of Australian families and lives?
    Do you get the impression from these stories that everytime NAB moves in they have a backdoor buyer interested in acquiring the property? It wouldn't be the first time a Bank operated this way ... or the last!
    Look at the way Banks refuse to "approve" the borrowers to continue trying to sell, negotiate etc
    Look at the cases, like that of Sean Butler, where Bank West put totally unrealistic demand on Sean and his wife, and when he had found a solution, then refused to permit that to go ahead, ruining 20 years of his business life and destroying his hope and his dreams.
    We find this abhorrent, immoral, corrupt and disgusting. It is robbery without arms and an abomination to decent people once they learn of the Bank low life and their conduct. Bank lawyers and liquidators are so low they must have callouses on the bellies!
    What are we to do about this? What can we do with our feelings of horror and distress?
    WRITE, WRITE, WRITE - on blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook, to every parliamentarian, to every minister, to every friend and relation warning them of the filthy and gross misconduct that thrives in the silence of the victims.
    We will overcome this reign of the Banks.
    I urge every one of you to support every move to block, protest and destroy the unacceptable abuse of power by these stinking Australian banks. May they all rot in hell for their crimes against fellow Australians.

  • doyla66
    doyla66 Saturday, 27 July 2013

    Nab are barbaric alright. Even after being evicted they are still bullying us.

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