The stand-off continues with the cattle sale cancelled again this week -
‘No resolution in sight’ with council dispute
LIVELIHOODS depend on the weekly cattle sale at Casino.
For the second week in a row, the sale was cancelled, pending a resolution over an agents business usage fee of $1 per head of cattle, imposed by the Richmond Valley Council.
The Casino Auctioneers Association refused to pay the new charge, which the council says is crucial for it to meet its repayments on the $3.5 million it has borrowed as part of a $14 million upgrade of the facility.
It responded to the agents’ refusal last week with a “lockout”, cancelling sales.
Livestock agent Glenn Weir of Ian Weir and Sons said he’d like to see the issue resolved sooner rather than later for the community’s sake.
“A few Casino cattle have come across to Lismore to be sold,” he said.
“People have to sell for a number of reasons, either they are out of feed or have bills to pay.
“I think having Lismore as an option probably helps in a way to keep costs down in Casino.
“The monopoly doesn’t do anyone any good and in years to come when the new Casino facility is up and running, Lismore will still be there as another option.”
By the time the Rural Weekly went to print there was still no resolution in sight, despite both parties expressing a keen desire for an agreement.
Association president Matthew McCormack said the sales ban was starting to hurt both agents and producers and council general manager Vaughan Macdonald said he was “very aware” of the impact the stalemate was having on the community.
Mr Macdonald said the council was conscious of the need to find a pathway forward.
It is understood the association met on Monday night and there had been “a bit of communication with council”, said one agent, who believed the group had “come up with something and were asking council to get back to them”. In the past 24 hours “some positive signs have appeared”, said another.
However, on Tuesday, Mr McCormack said “nothing had been worked out”.
“They knocked us back and haven’t come back with a plan,” he said.
“Something has got to give, for the best interests of the community.”
Mr McCormack said the ball was in the council’s court.
“We want to see some sort of proposal. We want to get back there. Our pay is starting to dwindle. It’s got dry and people are needing to sell cattle and we are needing to buy cattle too.” In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Macdonald said before sales could return to the NRLX, an agent was needed to sign a selling permit to run the sale.
“The council had been open and transparent in its dealings with agents and has met with them on many occasions over the past 18 months, and has been discussing new fee structures as far back as November 2016,” the statement read.
“Discussions have also been held with council’s Saleyards Advisory Group which includes agents and other representatives.
“Council communicated the fee increases widely throughout April, May and June... The opportunity to address council was also available.”
He acknowledged the cost increase to agents but said with $259 million in cattle sales over the past three years and the promise of a state-of-the-art facility, it was reasonable and affordable.
On the Darling Downs rumours about the sale of the Warwick Saleyards have fuelled fears of a price hike for vendors at the selling centre.
Southern Downs Regional Council in June began an expressions of interest process for the management of the saleyards.
The possibility of a private company taking over the saleyards has sparked concerns of a steep increase in user fees at the council-owned facility.
Michael Nowlan of Nowlan Stock and Station Agents said many agents and residents he had spoken to did not support the saleyards changing hands.
“We would like it to stay in (the) council's control because once it leaves the hands of (the) council it does seem like it would be unclear who is actually in control,” Mr Nowlan said.
“From the people I’ve talked to they’re not sure where this is coming from; it’s gone through the advisory committee but the public and agents have been left largely in the dark.
“It’s a municipal saleyards and it’s definitely a money maker for the town so we would like to see it stay in the council's control.
“Warwick is in a great location and it doesn't need to be a big super centre, it just needs to be tidied up a bit.”
Additional reporting by Digby Hildreth.
Stay up-to-date on the issue at www.ruralweekly.com.au.
We want to see some sort of proposal. We want to get back there. — Matthew McCormack
NO SALE: Farmers’ concerns are growing as the standoff over the Casino Saleyards enters its second week.