Livestock carrier furious over red tape

30 Jul, 2010 04:00 AM
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LIVESTOCK carrier John Leeds is furious that State Government departments are allowing bureaucracy to stand in the way of common sense in allowing the transportation of cattle from drought-affected pastoral areas.

Mr Leeds estimated he had transported more than 40,000 cattle from stations that are suffering from drought, both to the south and over east, and said there were at least 40,000 more cattle that needed moving.

But, he said, bureaucracy from Main Roads WA was hampering his efforts to do so.

Triple road trains need a permit to carry cattle further south than Binnu.

When Mr Leeds spoke to Farm Weekly this week he had just received $1000 worth of fines in the mail. He said they were for two of his drivers who had allegedly breached permit regulations.

"I've got mountains of fines here for two of my drivers who were just trying to help in the interests of the welfare of these cattle, it just goes to show that the people enforcing these laws have no idea," Mr Leeds said.

"I was told by Main Roads that after a story they had read in the Farm Weekly, they did not believe that it was drought driving cattle down south, but the slowing down of the live export market.

"They said the permits were not designed for people just trying to sell cattle, but for agistment.

"Well financially many of these people simply can't afford the agistment fees.

"Common sense has completely gone out the door."

Mr Leeds, who has been in the industry for 39 years, said it was easy enough to get the permits but the conditions attached to them made them unworkable.

He said one condition was that triple road trains had to maintain a half hour distance from other road trains.

Mr Leeds said even though they had set trucks off with a half hour separation he could not control other traffic and did not know where other road trains were.

He said the separation condition and the curfew on night movement of cattle had to be removed.

"The night curfew is supposed to protect the public but they are not protecting them because there is hardly any traffic at night," he said.

Several stories have appeared in Farm Weekly over recent weeks outlining the restrictions involving exporting cattle to Indonesia, which resulted in more cattle being transported south.

There have also been a number of stories detailing the large number of cattle heading south from drought-stricken pastoral areas, which is the reason special sales have been held at the Muchea Livestock Centre.

Mr Leeds said he was fed up with dealing with the red tape involved in trying to obtain special transport permits, especially when all they were trying to do was help pastoralists in the name of animal welfare.

He said he had not seen conditions this bad in those areas since the 1970s and had actually been forced to decline transporting some cattle as they were not fit to load.

"I'd like to ask the politicians if there is anything important in this State other than mining," he said.

According to a spokesman, Main Roads issues special permit approvals for 53.5m road trains to travel between the Ogilvie feedlots north of Northampton on North West Coastal Highway to Regan's Ford via Brand Highway south from areas north of the State that are experiencing very dry conditions.

The spokesman said the permits only allowed for the transport of livestock for agistment during periods of exceptional dry and for the operator to backload stock feed.

Currently, these permits are due to expire on September 17, 2010.

Following a recent meeting between Main Roads, Agriculture and Food Department, transport operators and pastoralists, the following conditions would be introduced to the exceptional circumstances permit:

p Transporters would be allowed to operate from 10pm to sunrise

p There must be amber rotating lights front and rear on the road train and they must be operating during night time travel

p The gap required between road trains subject to these permits is one kilometre

p There must be a sign affixed to the rear of the road train saying "caution extra long vehicle take care when overtaking"

p The national vendor declaration (cattle) and weigh bill must be carried and produced on request

p The consignment notice for backloading products must be carried and produced on request

p The areas of the State affected by extreme dry conditions will be listed by Local Government.

The spokeswoman said Main Roads' was not aware of the Farm Weekly article referred to by Mr Leeds.

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