The ACT government is looking for farm managers to take on decade-long leases at two rural properties bought in controversial circumstances by the now-defunct Land Development Agency.
The Suburban Land Agency has opened tenders for a 10-year sublease at the Milapuru and Lands End properties, on Canberra's western fringe.
The agency, via real estate agent JLL, is looking for someone with a "proven track record" in managing rural landholdings.
The move to grant new long-term leases almost certainty means the land won't be rezoned and sold off for housing in the next decade.
Milapuru and Lands End were among nine rural properties purchased by the former Land Development Agency between 2014 to 2017, as part of a strategy to shore up Canberra's future land supply pipeline.
The $43 million package of deals were the subject of a scathing 2018 audit report, and have been under the microscope of an ongoing ACT Legislative Assembly inquiry for more than a year.
The inquiry's public hearings continue on Wednesday, with the agency's former sales director, John Mason, scheduled to give evidence.
The deal to secure Milapuru - a 290 hectare property at the edge of Weston Creek - attracted particular attention. The agency paid $7 million for the block in July 2015, despite it being valued at $4 million. Chief Minister Andrew Barr, who signed off on the deal, has defended the purchase, arguing the property could generate at least $100 million in land sales revenue once it was rezoned and sold off for housing.
The audit report was also highly critical of the Land Development Agency's apparent failure to properly manage the blocks after they were purchased and re-leased, in most cases to the former owners.
The agency failed to collect rent from three properties - including Milapuru and Lands End - resulting in an estimate $200,000 in lost revenue. At the time the audit was published, there were no agreements in place with the leasees outlining how the land should be managed.
A Suburban Land Agency spokeswoman this week said those agreements were now in place for the properties, where were currently being managed under short-term leases.
The spokeswoman said the agency's desire to enter into long-term agreements were in line with the auditor-general's recommendations.
Asked if the agency had plans for the properties once the 10-year leases expired, the spokeswoman reaffirmed that purchases were made to ensure the ACT had land available to cater for "future growth". The land could be used for housing, environmental offsets or "other purposes", she said.
The spokeswoman would not be drawn on a timeframe for a decision on the future use of the land, saying that was subject to further work by the territory's planning directorate.
Milapuru and Lands End present different opportunities and challenges to prospective lessees.
Lands End, a 336 hectare property immediately south of the Belconnen suburb of Higgins, has been used for cattle grazing, while Milapuru has recently added a horse agistment facility.
An agronomist's report on Lands End, which was included in the tender documents, said the lessees would need to have the "knowledge, time and capacity" to control weeds throughout the property, warning that inaction would create "major problems".
As a result, the report said finding the "right lessees" was more important than securing the highest rental return.
"If weed control became the responsibility of the SLA because of inaction by the lessee then the costs will swamp the income that had been received," the report stated.
Milapuru also has a potential weed problem, with a fifth of available grazing land heavily infested with blackberries, according to another report.
The potential returns from the property would hinge on how much money was poured into the horse agistment facilities, the report found.