Mass cattle deaths in focus

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WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan.
Camera IconWA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan. Credit: Daniel Wilkins

The future of two cattle stations at the centre of separate animal welfare investigations is up for discussion at a roundtable in Broome today.

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan planned to travel to Broome for the meeting, which was centred around Yandeyarra and Noonkanbah stations, in the Pilbara and Kimberley respectively.

She was expected to meet with Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association, Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA, the Pastoral Lands Board, Kimberley Agriculture and Pastoral Company, Ashburton Aboriginal Corporation, Nyambu Buru Yawaru, Lamboo Station, Pardoo Beef Corporation, Hancock Agriculture, Rio Tinto, and cattle stations De Grey, Nita Downs and Yougawalla.

Both are under Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development investigation after mass cattle deaths were discovered.

More than 650 cattle died of dehydration at the Mugarinya Community Association-managed Yandeyarra, while a further 490 cattle were confirmed dead at Noonkanbah, a Yungngora Association-controlled pastoral lease in central Kimberley.

Ms MacTiernan said the meeting would help determine future action.

“While the animal welfare response is ongoing at Yandeyarra, and investigations under the Animal Welfare Act are under way into both cases, we need to look longer term at managing animal welfare risks on stations in the north,” she said.

“There were clearly catastrophic failures in management at these two pastoral properties, but we need to examine whether structural issues contributed to the problem.”

“The meeting is about charting a strategic approach to dealing with this issue – bringing together government and industry to prevent a repeat of what we’ve seen over the last two months.

Ms MacTiernan said the department needed to ask whether alternative pastoral business models, including sub-leases, joint ventures or agistments, could “deliver better management outcomes and benefits for Aboriginal communities”.

“This meeting will feed into a broader meeting with Pilbara and Kimberley Aboriginal pastoralists in the next three months, focused on strengthening animal welfare management and pastoral business governance,” she said.

The proposed meeting came eight days after State Government staff from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, and the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage met community members at Yandeyarra last Tuesday.

KPCA chairman David Stoate planned to attend the meeting and said it was critical an animal welfare disaster like this did not happen again.

“We are keen for this not to happen again, so we will assist in any way we can,” he said.

“The industry doesn’t want industry regulation, and we don’t want leases revoked.

“We want the existing regulation to be enforced rather than a whole lot of new regulation coming forward.”

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