Beef over saleyards draws a large crowd and strong demands for reopening NRLX

The public meeting about the NRLX dispute at Casino RSM Club on Monday, September 4.

Susanna Freymark

Heckling, accusations and tears were peppered through a rowdy public meeting that pressed for the reopening of the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange and a resolution to the NRLX-agent dispute.

At Putting the Beef back into the Beef Capital at the Casino RSM, about 900 people crammed into the auditorium and spilled out into the corridors.

Tonight, Monday September 4, Casino business owner and the meeting’s organiser, Allan Berry said, “We have a voice and that voice is loud.”

Former federal MP Thomas George chaired the meeting. Several times he called Order! to stop comments from the crowd.

The speakers at the meeting were Richmond Valley mayor Robert Mustow, agent Darren Winkler representing the Casino Auctioneers Association, Roger Bailey representing farmers and Allan Berry representing businesses.

Councillors Steve Morrissey, Debbie McGillan, Patrick Deegan, Sandra Humphrys and Robert Hayes sat in the front row with council’s general manager Vaughan Macdonald and council staff.

“We need this issue resolved,” Mr George said at the opening of the meeting.

That issue is the standoff between council and agents about a new licence agreement.

The gates to the NRLX have remained closed since July 1, except for one sale that benefited the community.

Agents have shifted their sales to Lismore saleyards.

The meeting ran for an hour and a half.

After the speakers and questions, several motions were put forward and voted on by the meeting.

Here are those motions. They speak volumes about the mood of the meeting.

Motion 1

Chris Magner, a farmer from Tatham put forward this motion in three parts.

1. That Richmond Valley Council dispense with the failed proposed licence agreement.

2. That council temporarily allow auctioneers to recommence use of the NRLX under terms in place before June 2023, until something can be agreed to.

3. That council recognise the Casino Auctioneers Association as an organisation and begin drawing up an agreement for agents to operate the NRLX into the future.

“This scenario we are in is the most embarrassing situation the Beef Capital has ever seen,” Mr Magner said.

“The agreement has failed dismally.”

The crowd voted strongly in favour of Mr Magner’s motion.

Motion 2

Mr Berry put forward the next motion.

That council form an NRLX advisory committee chaired by an independent person. On the committee there would be representatives from agents, farmers, transport, council, buyers and vendors.

A farmer stood up and said there was an advisory committee for 30 years up until six years ago. “It should never have been let go,” he said.

Motion 3

Trevor Schneider put forward the next motion.

That a professional mediator be appointed to help resolve the dispute within 14 days. If the dispute is not resolved, it goes to arbitration and to the minister for local government.

Mr George was impatient with the timeframe.

“Let’s get cattle back in the saleyards and then work this out,” he said.

Mr Schneider’s motion was voted yes by a roomful of hands.

Motion 4

James Murray had a motion about saleyard staff.

That council cancel contracts and employment of management staff at NRLX.

A former councillor Col Humphries stood up and said it wasn’t that simple to do that as it involved procedures and contracts.

There were only a few who voted against Mr Murray’s motion with the majority voting yes to this motion.

There was much to discuss as people filed out of the auditorium.

A summary of the meeting can be read here.

Thomas George chaired the meeting at the RSM.
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