Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Abs delayed

- ~ Anna McGuinness

An administra­tive error by Murray River Council has delayed the developmen­t of the Murray Plains Meat Cooperativ­e’s proposed micro-abattoir at Barham for at least six months.

The four-hectare site at Gonn Rd, Barham, which was bought for the micro-abattoir, has defaulted to community land, after the council did not classify it as operationa­l land within three months of acquiring it.

The council is overseeing the build of the abattoir on behalf of the Murray Plains Meat Co- operative and will own it for at least five years before leasing it back to the co-op.

At an extraordin­ary meeting on August 12, council resolved to classify the site as operationa­l land after lawyers wrote to confirm the transfer of land into its name on May 18.

However, the matter had actually been settled on April 1, meaning the site was automatica­lly deemed community land for more than a month prior.

The issue was raised by Cr Gen Campbell and the council sought legal advice on the matter, including whether council’s conduct could be argued as reasonable given the short time frame and that there was never any doubt about what the land was going to be used for.

As a result, at last week’s meeting, a new recommenda­tion was put forward to reclassify the site from community land to operationa­l land, a process which could take six to eight months.

The council has successful­ly applied for more than $2 million

in Federal and NSW Government grants and the delay puts at risk the ability for the project to meet the milestones required by the funding bodies.

In the meeting, director of community and economic developmen­t John Harvie apologised to council for the oversight and misunderst­anding of the act.

‘‘I believe anyone who has followed this matter wouldn’t think council purchased that land for any reason other than a micro abattoir,’’ he said.

Cr Gen Campbell said she had tried to raise issues regarding the project with councillor­s in September 2020 but was told to “put up or shut up” by then acting chief executive Brian Barrett.

‘‘I am putting up, because we’ve never been able to discuss this,’’ she said.

‘‘All my concern is about process, so I want to pursue the process of this council that keeps coming every time.’’

Mr Harvie, who was video

linked into the meeting, was heard saying ‘‘what a load of s*#t” in response to Cr Campbell’s comments, before retracting and apologisin­g.

Mayor Chris Bilkey had to pull up Cr Geoff Wise, Cr Tom Weyrich and Cr Gen Campbell for comments or arguing during the debate and later said he was disappoint­ed with some of the behaviour in the meeting.

‘‘I think two or three times it was regrettabl­e behaviour and those councillor­s know enough and have been around long enough to know what’s acceptable and what’s not,’’ he said.

Cr Bilkey said the council would work diligently with the funding bodies recognisin­g the issues the project faced and to get some leeway on the acquittal dates, and said the project remained viable.

‘‘The implicatio­ns for an industry that addresses the humane raising and processing of meat is worth supporting and in addition, the economic impact for Barham and the surroundin­g community is very positive,’’ he said.

‘‘The council is very much in favour of going forward with that, the vote was seven to one, which indicated close to unanimous approval for the course we’re taking.’’

Cr Gen Campbell abstained from voting on the matter and Cr Alan Mathers was not present during the debate due to a pecuniary conflict of interest.

The Murray Plains Meat Cooperativ­e is a group of local meat producers formed in response to the closure of abattoirs in the region.

Chair of the co-operative Lauren Mathers, a pig farmer in Barham, said the setback was extremely disappoint­ing.

‘‘We didn’t know about any of the delays until the last couple of days,’’ she said last week.

‘‘We just need to make sure the processes are done properly, and that side of things is sort of out of our hands.

‘‘It gives us more time now to work with local landholder­s who might be disgruntle­d about it.

‘‘We just hope now it’s been brought to light that it can just get done and we can move forward with it.’’

The micro-abattoir is planned to be a modular, multi-species facility to service southern NSW pork, lamb, beef, goat and poultry ‘paddock to plate’ producers.

The co-operative had hoped it would be operating by Christmas this year.

 ??  ?? Lauren Mathers.
Lauren Mathers.
 ??  ?? Gen Campbell.
Gen Campbell.

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