Agents speak out on NRLX standoff

Agents at the Casino All Breeds Sale on Saturday, July 29.

Susanna Freymark

We were working on a story that pulled together all the strands of the present situation at the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange and the disagreement between council and the stock agents.

Our aim was to clear up many of the questions and issues that have been left hanging.

As we were crosschecking that story tonight, we received what we had been waiting weeks for – a statement from the agents.

If you are a farmer, an agent, work for an agent, are employed at the Casino saleyards, transport cattle to the saleyards or have a business in town – the NRLX shutdown for the past month will have impacted you.

The dispute between the council and the agents who use – or used to use – the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange impacts every ratepayer in Richmond Valley.

Its temporary closure and the future of the NRLX is a serious issue that affects the lifeblood of Casino and the surrounding district.

We are publishing the agents’ letter because we believe everyone has a right to know what is going on in the NRLX dispute.

We want to see what Richmond Valley Council and the NRLX have to say in response to the claims in the agents’ letter.

Here is the letter from the Casino Auctioneers Association.

Dear Stakeholder,

The CAAI is taking the opportunity to write to all our valued customers and stakeholders regarding our members concerns for the proposed NRLX Agent Licence Agreement and to address the misinformation being disseminated.


Our member agencies obtained a copy of the draft licence agreement from Richmond Valley Council (Council) on the 8th February 2023. Each agency was required to agree to a confidentiality agreement not to distribute, share, copy, duplicate, publish or use (the document) for any reason.

This was in complete contradiction to the report tabled at Council meeting on the 29 December 2022 whereby it was stated ‘The EOI documentation will be publicly available in January 2023. (p.38)

All member agencies submitted an EOI with the following caveat: The submission of this Expression of Interest is subject to this firm’s position that in the event that our application is successful we would wish to negotiate changes to the proposed Agent Licence, in discussion with other successful agencies, before its commencement on 1 July 2023.

It follows that this EOI is not a tender the acceptance of which would constitute a contract.

On the 12th May 2023 four agencies were notified of their application being successful with one agency (Ian Weir & Son) being rejected.

Negotiations with Council were attempted prior to the closure of the EOI, without success. On the 16 March 2023, the CAAI engaged a solicitor (Zucker Legal) to negotiate with Council. A four-page document addressing the licensing agreement and outlining some of the main concerns was sent to Council, with a request to meet with Council, to negotiate the license agreement.

On the 21st April 2023 the solicitor sent an additional five page letter requesting to meet with Council and negotiate the agreement. Council refused both requests to meet and negotiate and stated that they fail to recognise the Casino Auctioneers Association as a key stakeholder in the NRLX. The CAAI also engaged the Australian Livestock & Property Agents Association, State members of Parliament and prominent community members to assist with negotiation. Council continued their refusal to meet and negotiate.

Subsequently, individual agencies then sent a request to negotiate and meet with Council representatives. It wasn’t until the 26th May 2023 Council arranged a maximum of thirty minute (30min) Zoom meeting with individual representatives from each agency.

Member agencies requested further opportunities to meet and negotiate with Council however it was not until the 30th June 2023 (after the last combined store sale) that Council allowed one representative to meet with Council and discuss our members concerns.

At this meeting our members requested to continue normal operations at the NRLX, under the 2020-2023 licence agreement, until the current issues could be resolved. This respectful and practical offer was declined by Council management, with the ultimatum provided to all agencies – ‘sign the agreement or there will be no sales.’

This brief timeline of events highlights the willingness of CAAI members to cooperate with Council to resolve this issue. It highlights the attempts by the CAAI to arrange a meeting with Council to address concerns around the licence since March 2023 – not the ‘11th hour as stated by the General Manager.

During the above period the CAAI have considered the best interests of all stakeholders – not just agents. However, the RVC have refused to enter into any worthwhile negotiations, instead Council have attempted to utilise bullying and intimidation to force Agents into a licence agreement, which is clearly not in the best interest of all NRLX stakeholders.


During the procurement process and finalisation of the Expression of Interest (EOI) Council has decided to deny Ian Weir & Son Pty Ltd the opportunity to continue to market livestock at the NRLX precinct. Ian Weir & Son has supported the NRLX precinct for over 14 years, and our association is very concerned and disappointed with the treatment of this agency.

Ian Weir & Son has shown loyalty and commitment to the NRLX when they possessed other alternative marketing options. This loyalty has been ignored and although Council openly called for up to seven agencies to market at the NRLX and despite Council acknowledging Ian Weir & sons’ commitment to the NRLX in Council meetings as recent as the 18th April 2023, astonishingly Council denied this agency the ability to support and contribute to the NRLX precinct.

In addition, Council denied Ian Weir & Son any form of review or appeal process, and our association believes Council failed to provide a fair and due process within the EOI procedures.


The CAAI members were unable to lodge a submission regarding the proposed fees and charges as all agencies were participating in the EOI process and felt that any opposition to the fees and charges would be detrimental to a successful application.

As you are aware Council charge vendor fees commonly referred to as ‘yard dues.’ These fees are collected, reconciled and distributed to Council by all agencies at no cost to Council.

Utilising Councils’ figures stated on June 22, 114,637 head of cattle had been sold during the financial year to date. Employing a conservative average of $12.00 per head for yard dues, a total of approximately $1.375 million was collected – free of charge – for Council. That equates to over $4.125 million over the last three years.


The Council have claimed that the EOI process is of ‘Industry Standard’. The Council have had the licensing agreement available to interested Livestock agencies Australia wide, and proactively made contact with numerous agencies across New South Wales and Queensland. Upon those agencies reviewing the licensing agreement, no outside agency has applied to operate at the NRLX precinct.

This highlights that the EOI is not of industry standard. Our member agencies identified over 65 clauses within the licence agreement, that need either attention or removal.

As stated previously, agencies were bound by a confidentiality agreement and were not able to disclose the clauses of concern – until now. This again is another tactic by Council to strong-arm the NRLX stakeholders.


Post sale delivery has always been provided by the CAAI members and employees at a current rate of $4.60-$4.80/head. The delivery phase is taken very seriously and CAAI employ staff that possess many years of livestock handling experience.

The Council are wanting to take control of this and intend to charge a fee of $8.80/head.

However, based upon our observation, Council lacks the ability to undertake simple cattle handling and management processes, and our members question the level of staff experience and capability to carry out this important role.


Intrinsically linked to the task of ‘post-delivery’ is the maintenance of animal welfare standards. The CAAI has always employed the highest animal welfare standards and will categorically guarantee the continuation of these standards.

However, our members have grave concerns relating to the claims of the Council that they are going to ‘provide a higher level of service, once they assume control’.

Nonetheless, with inexperienced staff, they will not possess the capability.

Mistakenly the Mayor, Mr Mustow, has recently stated that as ‘…a result of some animal welfare concerns…’, the NRLX staff need to take control. These concerns were raised by our members ! Obviously, unknowingly to the mayor (and the Councillors), the NRLX are already responsible for animal welfare. Necessities such as clean water, adequate hay feeders and adequate infrastructure are not being met.

In response to our concerns, the General Manager replied via email on 6 July 2023 stating ‘…previous staffing structure did not allow sufficient resources to support the operational demands and meet the expectations desired.’ Our members strongly believe this excuse is unacceptable.

Councils’ continual inability to ‘meet the expectations’ has compelled our members to physically ensure the basic animal welfare provisions, such as clean water, is available to the livestock at the NRLX precinct. Although our performance of these tasks has not been acknowledged by Council.

Furthermore, the Council operate a modest herd of cattle under the banner of Richmond Valley Agriculture (RVA). In the last 12 months the ‘RVA’ incurred a significant number of deceased livestock due to poor animal husbandry and management. This again highlights their ability or lack thereof to carry out simple livestock handling and management tasks. Note: Photographic evidence exists relating to our members concerns.


Continually the NRLX Manager states that there have been 33 major work-related incidents at the NRLX, with the Mayor also claiming that there have been many major incidents. The Association disputes this claim and has requested a copy of the incident reports, which to date, Council have not provided.


The Council repeatedly promote the ‘state of the art facility’ and its ‘substantial growth’ but utilising Councils statistics published on page 14 of the EOI application the NRLX precinct has seen a -6.2% decrease in throughput of cattle in the last three years.

Our members have the following concerns:

• What is causing the decrease in throughput numbers?

• Why does the NRLX require more than double the number of staff in comparison to the old facility? (The additional excessive wages of a Saleyards Manager and Livestock Manager along with additional outdoor staff quickly accumulate and decrease NRLX profits.)

• How is the NRLX operating at a deficit. (The NRLX published an income of almost $2 million for 2022-23 via vendor fees, the agent’s business usage fee and the agent’s business licence fee).

• Is this an example of gross mismanagement of income?

• Is it possibly creative accounting to achieve a deficit?

• Is the ‘RVA’s’ cattle trading losses included in the NRLX’s deficit?

Inquiries have revealed that a ‘NRLX Business Plan 2022’ exists however stakeholders are unable to obtain a copy of the Business plan as it has been deemed ‘Commercial in Confidence’ (Council meeting 20 December 2022 p.36)

Our association has the following concerns:

• Why is a Business Plan for a community asset not publicly available?

• How can stakeholders abide and operate within a business plan if the plan is unknown?

Disturbingly in 2022 our members have born the financial burden of NRLX staff incompetence, relating to incorrect weighing of cattle. This related to a collective loss of $54,000 on one day, for the respective agencies. Our members reimbursed our vendors with no support from Council.

The NRLX constantly compare themselves to other large scale selling centres and have based their fees off these centres but fail to remain competitive with other local selling options.


Since the employment of the current NRLX Manager, our members have no confidence in the Manager to act efficiently, professionally, respectfully, or ethically.

( has removed the details of the rest of this section because it involves an individual and until claims are proven we have withdrawn the details about this. We have no affiliation with agents, council or the NRLX in this matter.)


In summary, the CAAI would like to thank you, for your valued support and request that your support continues whilst the CAAI attempt to achieve a suitable outcome for all users of the NRLX precinct.

Please feel free to contact your local agent to discuss this further or to obtain further information.

This letter raises many questions. If you have an opinion on the letter or the standoff, email

At the Casino All Breeds Sale at NRLX. Photos: Susanna Freymark
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