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Commonwealth Government Records about the Northern Territory

Establishment of the pastoral industry

In addition to the sale of town and country lands the 1863 Act also provided for the administration of Crown lands by granting pastoral leases in response to calls by South Australian pastoralists for access to northern lands.

Survey delays meant that between 1864 and 1872, while a small number of applications for pastoral leases were received, no leases were issued. The granting of pastoral leases did not begin until after the passage of the Northern Territory Lands Act 1872. This Act allowed persons to apply for land outside settled districts and to use that land for pastoral purposes. Leases were initially for 14 years (although this was later amended to 21 years or 42 years), and covered an area between 25 and 300 square miles, at a rental of sixpence per square mile.

The first pastoral leases were issued to Andrew Tennant and to John and Robert Love on 1 April 1872 for a property near Alice Springs. Leases for properties in the eastern Barkly Tableland were taken out soon after, including Alexandria in 1877, followed by properties in the western Victoria River area, including Victoria River Downs and Wave Hill. In some cases properties were leased by individuals, but many properties were ultimately acquired by large companies. By the end of the 19th century over 4,000 applications for pastoral leases were received.

Leases for other purposes including agriculture and timber were also allocated at this time.

Pastoral records for this period include applications for leases and the allocation of leases, the latter often including a small drawing of the property concerned, together with its boundaries and topographical features, and the payment of rents for leases.

Selected Records Relating to 19th Century Pastoral Leases
National Archives, Darwin
Northern Territory applications for pastoral leases, 1864–1900 E1652
Register of pastoral applications, 1867–1910 E1619
Registers of pastoral leases, 1872–1915 E1588
Registers of rents, 1872–1916 E1617
Northern Territory pastoral leases, 1872–1913 E1646
Register of Northern Territory pastoral rents (Adelaide register), 1872–92 E1648
Northern Territory Archives Service
Registers of Northern Territory pastoral leases, 1872–1930 NTRS2747


Chapter 1
The Northern Territory of South Australia, 1863-1911