Rinehart sees red tape
Billionaire Gina Rinehart has hailed investment in agri-tech as a pathway to prosperity and renewed calls for the McGowan Government to slash the onerous red tape which is hampering development of WA’s northern cattle industry.
Speaking by videolink at last week’s Pastoralists & Graziers’ Association annual convention, Mrs Rinehart said Australia’s cattle industry had great room to grow but was being stifled by red tape, citing the example of restrictions on using water from the Fitzroy River.
“Across the average wet season, approximately 7000 gigalitres of water is wasted,” she said. “This is equivalent to 14 times Sydney harbour.
“As it stands the Government only allows one water licence to access water from the Fitzroy River, leaving approximately 99.991 per cent of the water to run out uselessly into the Indian Ocean.”
The iron ore mogul said the impact of this red tape was evident when comparing Australia’s cattle industry to that of Brazil. Brazil has 210 million cattle, compared with Australia’s 25 million, despite the countries having a similar land mass.
The impact of red tape is also evident between Australian States. According to Meat and Livestock Australia 2016-2017 figures, Queensland has 10.6 million cattle, compared with WA’s 2 million, even though WA has a much bigger land mass.
Now the third-biggest producer of cattle in Australia with a total herd size reaching about 300,000, Hancock Prospecting’s pastoral portfolio includes the Liveringa and Nerrima stations, which cover 470,000ha in the Fitzroy Valley, and Fossil Downs station near Fitzroy Crossing.
Mrs Rinehart last year bought Australia’s biggest pastoral company, S. Kidman and Co, with Chinese group Shanghai CRED, and is set to live export up to 300,000 cattle a year to China. She also plans to launch a Kidman-branded beef range.
Hancock Agriculture’s chief executive David Larkin said the firm wanted to form a partnership with processors throughout Australia to launch its own chilled and frozen products for domestic and export markets, with meat from Kidman.
“We are developing supply chain relationships with as many customers as possible,” Mr Larkin said. “The focus is to develop a post-farmgate, vertically integrated agricultural business.”
He said Kidman Santa Gertrudis cattle were being processed this week, generating samples, initially for restaurant customers in South Australia. The trials would be expanded across Australia, then internationally.
“This is a big opportunity,” he said. “There is a massive story to tell with an iconic brand like Kidman. Target destination is the world.”
The group could potentially launch WA-focused Hancock products down the track, but the immediate focus would be the Kidman branding.
Sidney Kidman was the original “cattle king” after building Australia’s biggest pastoral empire from 1899. The business was acquired by Mrs Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting and China’s Shanghai CRED last year.
Mr Larkin, who started his career in 1984 as an apprentice butcher and built the global meat brand Atron Enterprises before selling it to Thomas Foods International, said the group’s preferred to work with existing abattoirs rather than build or acquire its own processors.
Hancock was developing artwork and logos, and had appointed a head of marketing to develop a strategy for its Kidman-branded products.
Digby Stretch with the PGA achievement award.
Ian Evans, Bruce Eyres and Emma Gittoes at the convention.