Enough rhetoric, time for action says pastoralist

29 Nov, 2010 04:00 AM
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THERE is growing anger among WA's pastoralists who feel they have been neglected in terms of drought relief.

While the Wheatbelt suffers through one of its toughest seasons in memory, some pastoralists in the Pilbara, Gascoyne and Murchison are entering their eighth dry year.

In that time they have had to deal with pastoral lease rate rises of 200-500 per cent as well as increasing shire rates and input costs.

Jim Quadrio runs Granite Peak station at Wiluna. He said he has had six bad years out of the last seven and is nearly at the end of his fourth consecutive dry year.

If rain doesn't come this summer, he will be forced to sell off his remaining cattle herd, which has already been reduced by 75pc in the last three years.

"We have had enough of the rhetoric coming from the bureaucrats, politicians and so-called industry representatives," Jim said.

"This latest lot of funding ($5 million drought relief) is all well and good but I don't think it will achieve anything and, in particular, for 80pc of the WA land mass - the pastoral areas - it is not going to do a lot.

"All we seem to be getting out of it is a free barbecue with a workshop on how to manage our cattle in dry years."

Jim said there was some tangible solutions that the WA Government should be looking at to help pastoralists.

"Rate and rent relief would be a big help," he said.

"The government could waive rates and rent in these tough years.

"I have been at Granite Peak for 28 years and other station owners have been here for between 30 and 60 years and none of us have seen it this bad.

"Yet rates continue to go up and it is becoming increasingly tough to deal with.

"The majority of stations are still family operated but if the dry keeps going there won't be many families that can stick it out.

"The biggest problem is we are eating up our equity to keep operating.

We have been drawing on that equity since 2005 and it is just about used up and simply means we are incurring more debt.

"This has coincided with one of the biggest messes the WA beef industry has ever been in.

"We have had to deal with disgusting prices for cattle and if prices had been better we could have coped with the drought."

A long-term finance scheme would be of assistance.

"Queensland implemented a scheme where all producers had access to a 25 year loan with interest rates under six per cent," he said.

"Why doesn't the WA Government look at something like that particularly for drought-proofing and development?

"This idea has been put to the Pastoralists and Graziers Association, bureaucrats and members of the Dry Season Advisory Council but to date it has been totally ignored."

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