Bring back the beef – it’s not about who’s right or who’s wrong

Agent Mathew McCormack was the first speaker at the public meeting.

Susanna Freymark

The mood at the second public meeting about the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange dispute in Casino was much like the first meeting on September 4.

People are angry at Richmond Valley Council.

At the meeting of more than 300 people at the Casino Golf Club tonight, Monday, September 25 there were repeated accusations of council not listening or answering concerns.

The anger and upset comes from Casino having an empty saleyard. There has been no signing of the new licence agreement offered by council as agents dispute 64 items on the contract.

Much of the discussion tonight was about the council’s announcement that it would lease the saleyard in the long term if no one signed the licensing agreement.

Former MP Thomas George ran the public meeting and introduced the speakers – agent Mathew McCormack, business owner Allan Berry, cattle farmer Roger Bailey and later in the meeting State MP Richie Williamson was invited to speak about government mediation.

Mr George said an invitation to the meeting had been sent to Richmond Valley mayor Robert Mustow.

None of the motions from the September 4 public meeting were properly addressed by council at its monthly meeting on September 15, Mr George said.

“Each and every one of us is disappointed council didn’t go to mediation,” Mr George said.

“It’s not about who’s right or who’s wrong – it’s about getting the beef back into the capital.”

The crowd at the Casino Golf Club.

Agent Mr McCormack and Casino Auctioneers Association president Andrew Summerville met with the council’s general manager Vaughan Macdonald after the September 4 public meeting.

“It was informal. But nothing eventuated from that meeting,” Mr McCormack said.

On council’s decision to lease the NRLX, Mr McCormack said “the jury was still out for me – is this the best decision for the community and ratepayers?”.

The leasing decision didn’t address the use of the NRLX in the short term, he said.

Allan Berry has organised both public meetings and said, “my trust in this council to deal with the NRLX is so broken, I don’t think it can be mended”.

Agents have accepted the 0.2% fee in the licensing agreement, Mr Berry said.

At the September 15 council meeting Councillor Robert Hayes had responded to that information by saying – “it’s too little, too late”.

Allan Berry was at the meeting to represent Casino businesses.

Mr Berry said his concern about privately leasing the NRLX was the time it would take to implement.

“An obvious answer is to lease to the agents,” he said.

Farmer Bruce Lyle said he rang all six councillors to ask them questions about leasing the NRLX.

“Patrick Deegan asked questions on my behalf,” Mr Lyle said.

“The lease term is a five to 30 years term. They (council) don’t know how it was going to look.

“The future is unknown.”

Six motions were put to the crowd, voted on and passed.

The motions were:

1. That Richmond Valley Council rescind the recommendations of the general manager which were passed at the RVC meeting on September 19.

2. That RVC and agents enter into a mediation process to reopen the NRLX immediately under the 2020-23 licensing agreement for a 12-month period.

3. That RVC re-form the NRLX Advisory Group under section 355 to ensure the perspectives of all stakeholders are considered when decisions around the future management and operational structures are being made.

4. The long term future of the operations of the NRLX be thoroughly investigated in a transparent manner with genuine community consultation.

5. The long term future of the NRLX be determined by RVC after the 2024 local government election.

6. That a formal complaint be sent to the minister for local government, minister for small business and the ombudsman accompanied by a petition expressing concerns with the RVC’s probity in handling the NRLX dispute.

People signed the petition. Photos: Susanna Freymark

Petition forms were handed out and Mr George said 10,000 signatures were needed to get the matter mentioned in parliament.

He urged Mr Williamson to unite with other state and federal MPs to “bring pressure on the council”.

As the saleyards sit empty for the thirteenth week, the future is uncertain for the NRLX and its users. The mood is heavy and hurt. The dispute is taking its toll on this cattle community.

Read all the NRLX dispute stories here.

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