A petition calling for reopening the Livestock Saleyards at Moree has attracted 279 signatures in the space of only 10 days.
The petition is directed towards the Moree Plains Shire Council and comes after the saleyards were abruptly closed in February of 2022 due to safety issues and public liability concerns.
The result is a strong indication that locals are keen to see the saleyards back up and running as soon as possible.
Since the closure, cattle producers have been forced to transport cattle to other towns in the surrounding area such as Inverell or even Tamworth to have their livestock sold, proving to be an expensive inconvenience for producers.
Some farmers and agents in Moree are choosing to hold off selling cattle altogether, citing transportation costs and potential livestock-related losses. However, more than 12 months have passed since the closure and with no clear indication as to whether the yards will reopen any time soon, haulage remains the only viable option.
For smaller producers such as Amanda Mason, who created the petition, the closure of the local yards is particularly troublesome as they may only have a few animals to sell at any one time.
“The costs for transportation and other expenses are simply too great and the numbers no longer stack up,” she said.
A public meeting was held on the 23rd of February at Pally pub in Moree to discuss the future of the yards. Event organiser Col Pring says it was a great turnout with approximately 80 people in attendance including Moree Plains Shire Council members, however, no resolution was met.
“The sale yards are such an important part of our town, not just from an economic standpoint where you have various people that have been taken out of the workforce such as local stock transportation and the sale yards workers,” Mr Pring said.
“But there is also the aspect that may not seem so obvious to outside people and that is the mental health and social support aspect”.
The sale was a social outing for many people. A place for producers to socialise with like-minded people and discuss everyday issues, not just work-related ones.
For people living in comparatively geographically isolated centres such as Moree, the chance to gather around the ‘watercooler’ and meet up with others regularly is valuable for their well-being.
From an economic standpoint, local Moree businesses that serviced food, fuel and agricultural services to producers from out of town that came into Moree to attend sale yards meets may notice the outflow of traffic, says Mr Pring.
“The closing of the saleyards has directly affected many people’s lives but there’s also the unknown, the what ifs.”
“What if there was a flood, where would the cattle and horses go? What if there was a bio-security outbreak, how would the animals be processed? “
“All we say to those that have been a part of the decision-making process that led to the closure of the yards is please, let us know what’s happening, keep us informed”.
Writing to former Moree Plains Mayor Katrina Humphries in October of 2021, Justine McNally, a veterinarian for Local Land Services, expressed concerns regarding the saleyards as having been identified as a key site in relation to livestock standstill in the face of an Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) outbreak considering the substandard condition of the yards.
On 17th February 2022, Council resolved to cease public sales at the Moree Saleyards following a written opinion from a selling agent and subsequent inspection of the site stating the facility was in a condition that was an unacceptable risk to operators and livestock.
Specific issues and health and safety concerns associated with the saleyards include:
- Poor structural integrity of loading ramps
- Rotting timber rails and protruding bolts in the holding pens
- Collapsed section of roofing in the yard area, weathered materials
- Abandoned/dysfunctional state of buildings and structures
Other significant issues and challenges include:
- Parking and vehicle access, high risk of light vs heavy vehicle collisions
- No effective environmental management of stormwater and effluent runoff
- Limited lighting structures
A long-term plan for the yards has still not been finalised. A report commissioned by Moree Plains Council last year reveals $3-4 million would be needed to complete major works. An alternative would be to build entirely new yards but it’s estimated to cost close to $12 million.
When the yards closed in February of 2022 it was touted as a ‘short-term decision whilst a long-term plan was finalised,’ however, until major repairs have been completed and a lease has been agreed upon by Moree livestock sale yards, the site will remain closed.
The New England Times contacted the Moree Plains Shire Council on numerous occasions for comment, but they did not provide a response.