New abattoir for Alice? Some cattle men pushing for it.

2524 old Alice abattoir

 

2524 Wally Klein OKBy ERWIN CHLANDA

 

Fear that bad seasons would interrupt the supply of cattle is one of the main obstacles to a new abattoir in Alice Springs, says Wally Klein, whose family owns Orange Creek Station.

 

But he also says: “I think we can source them out from a bit further to cover that.

 

“Even when we have a really dry year I can go out bush and get a fat cow, a fat killer. Beautiful meat.”

 

Mr Klein also says there is a big future for “green” cattle, free ranging for most of their lives in bush paddocks.

 

“Yes, we’d like to go organic. There is a huge call for it now. People want to eat good food.”

 

The Alice Springs meat works at the western end of Smith Street burned down in 1988 and ever since, the parts of the beast that cannot be used – intestines, head, hooves, bones, making up roughly half the animal’s weight – has been adding to the freight bill for meat exported from The Centre.

 

Mr Klein is a passionate advocate of controlling the whole “from the paddock to the plate” process, having last year built fattening-up yards for his own cattle – big enough for half of his herd of 4000.

 

He says there is talk of building a small abattoir at the Bohning stockyards immediately south of Alice Springs, and he is planning a slaughter house on Orange Creek.

 

He concedes that “labour has always been a problem, to get good [abattoir] workers up here”.

 

And then there is competition from the lucrative live export market: “Little bulls fetch $1000 in Saudi Arabia,” he says, $3.50 per kilo, on the station, live weight.

 

This is mostly for British breeds, shipped out through Perth or Adelaide, 12 months old, weighing 300 kilos.

 

Meanwhile Tom Stockwell, retiring president of the NT Cattlemen’s Association, presented a broad overview of the industry at the organisation’s annual meeting on Friday.

 

Major topics were climate change, water, Aboriginal affairs and fracking.

 

“With every increase in wood comes a rapid decrease in grass.

 

“Woody sequestration [of CO2] and pastoralism are competing enterprises,” he said.

 

Mr Stockwell quoted in his speech Queensland biologist and research scientist Dr Bill Burrows: “Australia needs to proudly proclaim to the world that it is most likely to reach the holy grail of greenhouse gas reduction by achieving zero net emissions.

 

“This comes about by virtue of our huge vegetated land mass coupled with relatively small human population. Yet we appear to be embarrassed by this good fortune. It is time for the self-flagellation and misleading grandstanding on this issue, by all Australian governments, to stop.”

 

Said Mr Stockwell: “I think that the attempts of the Environmental Defender’s Office to stymie and delay clearing on pastoral land in the Territory, that has already been through a fairly rigorous approval process seems a bit frivolous.”

 

2524 Stockwell (right), Nott OKEven at home climate change initiatives are not without problems: “We have some bright, young and idealistic kids at home, studying agriculture, are good at maths and physics. They come up with all sorts of ideas, as they do.

 

“They reckon we should make all bores at home solar, and pointed out how cheap solar was.

 

“But they spoiled it all for me as they checked the monitoring app on their phone. They said they’re guessing I’d still have to run the generator 24/7 as a back-up, in case it got cloudy or the sun went down over night.”

 

Mr Stockwell expects the majority of the fracking inquiry recommendations will be accepted and it is “offering real consultation with all Territorians”.

 

There had been generally positive responses to NTCA submissions from businesses, communities and others, but “there is still much to do to ensure land access agreements are developed and legislated”.

 

About “the headlines of recent weeks” Mr Stokwell said: “Despite the good will, the money, the lands, the rights a significant proportion of our Aboriginal community continues to be sucked into the vortex of despair.

 

“Our industry is maligned” – but he quotes Sir John Kerr: “It seems to the pastoralists it would be a nonsense to say that [Aborigines] would be better off, unemployed in their thousands but maintained in settlements in growing degrees of comfort, when they could work in the real world with growing degrees of efficiency and growing economic reward.”

 

Said Mr Stockwell: “These days the settlements are in growing degrees of discomfort. I am concerned for all Territorians at the continued concentration of rights and acquisition of power rather than quality of life.”

 

He quoted the Northern Land Council calling for “the de-colonialisation of northern Australia, native title holders becoming landlords of the pastoral estate, wanting seats on the pastoral land boards and the like.

 

“More worrying is the NT Government response to this bullying approach,” referring to the Barunga treaty talks.

 

He says Aboriginal demands for land ownership have been recognised by land rights, initially expected to see a transfer of 25% of NT land but now amounting to 48%.

 

“If claims go through it will 92% or so … what further erosion of pastoral property rights will be sold off with it?” he asked.

 

“How much investment is it going to scare away? What chance of making any substantive difference of normal Aboriginal people.

 

“In spite of good will, land, money and rights Aboriginal Territorians have benefitted little.

 

“The NT pastoral estate has been in the forefront of transferring land and rights to Aboriginal people.

 

“After 40 years it’s time for Aboriginal lands to take responsibility for improving the lot of Aboriginals in the NT, rather than seeking more rights and control over the pastoral estate. History will not judge us well if we don’t change.”

 

However, up to 300 young Aborigines have been trained in the NTCA ILC Real Jobs program “and this year’s intake was oversubscribed” but “the 48% [which is the Territory’s] Aboriginal land is still a net sink for billions of dollars of tax money”.

 

Mr Stockwell said the annual Top End monsoonal rainfall amounts to 400 million megalitres, 720 Sydney Harbours: “Surely we can have water as a competitive advantage rather than a scarce commodity.

 

“Our water resources everywhere need to be protected if any oil or gas development eventuates.”

 

On electricity: “Despite varied and abundant energy sources we have legislated to have some of the most expensive [electrical] power in the world … which reduces our competitiveness globally.

 

“The northern beef industry has borne the cost of Australia’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol but we now know we have a positive sequestration story to tell” which should allow “sensible land clearing”.

 

The association has elected Christopher Nott (at left in the photo) from Alcoota Station in Central Australia as its 13th president. He is pictured with outgoing president Tim Stockwell. (NTCA photo.)

 

OTHER PHOTOS (from top): The remains of the old Alice abattoir • Mr Klein with Indonesian cattle buyers • Cattle yards on Orange Creek.

 

5224 Orange Creek cattle yeards OK

 

 

 

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4 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Posted April 14, 2018 at 4:33 pm

    @ Trevor Shiell: I’ve been following your posts for some time and they are so on the money that I almost feel depressed after reading your sustained critique of government apathy when it comes to your table of viable industry and opportunities missed.
    What is it?
    Are you so far ahead of your time that you are dismissed for being a prophet (we don’t do prophets much anymore) or is it that nobody, including MLAs can be bothered to debate you?
    The almost total silence that greets your researched posts is a wonder in itself.
    I wonder how you can keep posting in the face of such indifference, but, as has been noted in the Broken Window of Tolerance story on these pages, hope springs eternal.
    It’s another wonder than nobody has bottled it and sold it in the Mall.

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  2. Trevor Shiell
    Posted April 14, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    History is repeating itself.
    Remember the efforts of Garry Dann a few years ago to establish a multi species facility here and the frustrations following a report by interstate consultants?
    It got little or no local government support, and again short sighted vision remains the order of the day.
    Eventually it must be recognised that much of the commercial activity of the town will have to shift to the area around Brewer, including any proposal for an abattoir, and the sooner governments
    start planning for this the better.
    What is happening at Peterborough could and should have have happened here irrespective of the closure of small abattoirs elsewhere.
    Our comparative advantage was the ability to air freight chilled box meat direct to Asia from here through an integrated road, rail and air freight hub at Brewer.
    Another great opportunity missed through lack of vision at an official level.
    As to the land clearing issue, there should be no need. It is disgraceful that productivity research into our local Acacias for both timber and animal feed is being conducted in Africa and India and should have been happening where the houses now stand at what was ASRI, to attract the investment capital to build the industry.
    At least two universities, both interstate, are producing highly nutritional animal food by recycling nutrients from sewerage via algae. Why not here?
    The answer lies again in a lack of vision and political will by both previous administrations.
    The housing and development industry is seen as more important than long term sustainable industry, and a lack of looking around at what is successful elsewhere. The same seems to be applying to tourism.

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  3. Fred the philistine
    Posted March 28, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    There’s only one thing for it, let the cattle men put their own money in to an abattoir and run it.

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  4. Alex
    Posted March 26, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    The pastoral estate will need to prove it can become truly sustainable or it will not transition into an industry that caters to the modern demands of the consumer.
    There is growing awareness of the ecological impact of beef production that is already influencing consumer choices.
    Obviously it would be best for all involved if the industry committed to reducing its significant carbon emissions and ecological footprint.
    Meat and Livestock Australia is aspiring to move to carbon neutrality by 2030. So it is possible to aim higher.
    The land clearing application mentioned above on the Maryfield station has hardly moved through a rigorous assessment process.
    It is the largest land clearing application in the history of the NT but it was not actually formally assessed through an environmental impact statement and the Pastoral Land board ignored the recommendations of the EPA.
    The Pastoral Land Board should diversify their representation so that they can make decisions that maintain the ecological integrity of pastoral lands rather than striving to push productivity that degrades country.

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