Agents grudgingly agree to $0.50 saleyard hike

HAPPIER TIMES: Auctioneers, buyers and vendors at a sale at the Casino yards earlier this year.
HAPPIER TIMES: Auctioneers, buyers and vendors at a sale at the Casino yards earlier this year.

CATTLE sales resumed at the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange in Casino this week, following an unhappy compromise between auctioneers and the management over a proposed new fee structure.

Last Friday Richmond Valley Council offered to halve its proposed agents business usage fee of $1 per animal in order to get the saleyards back up and running.

The five agencies that make up the Casino Auctioneers Association initially said they would reject the offer but on Monday they grudgingly accepted it, saying the stalemate had "done too much damage already”.

"The community is the main part of our thoughts and for the good of everyone we will accept it,” association president Matthew McCormack said.

Mr McCormack said he was unhappy with how the council handled the deal, saying it had sprung the policy change on the association with little time to look it over.

The auctioneers had no choice but to accept the new fee offer, Mr McCormack said.

The compromise deal, which sees a smaller increase in fees paid by both vendors and agents, was necessary to keep business flowing, he said.

Council's general manager Vaughan Macdonald said the 50% reduction was a "significant concession” and he was pleased it had had the desired effect.

"It is critically important NRLX users and council work together to ensure the saleyards remained the number one cattle selling centre on the North Coast,” Mr Macdonald said.

Council's revised offer showed a willingness to listen to the community, he said.

"Council listened to the local community when it chose to keep the saleyards as a council-run asset rather than sell or lease to private enterprise as many councils have done.

"Council has also lobbied hard on behalf of the rural community to obtain more than $10 million in grant funding from the Federal and NSW governments to put towards the full upgrade the NRLX facility, making it one of the most modern facilities in Australia.”

He was "positive” the fees were a fair compromise for all NRLX stakeholders.

But before the re-opening on Wednesday, no one was sure if there would be too few or too many cattle.

"It's up in the air how many we will have,” Mr McCormack said on Monday.

"It has been dry and we haven't had sales for two weeks.”

As for the new fees, every cent an agent got was from a vendor, he said.

"At the end of the day the vendor pays the agent,” he said.

"We don't get money from anywhere else, we don't have a slush pile.”

Another local agent said the council had "held a gun to our head, and not pulled the trigger”.

"We've all bent a bit but the agents are being hit at both ends. We have had to put an extra person on over there during the sale days to move the stock around.”

It was just one more cost caused by the upgrade to the facility, he said.

Mr Macdonald said:

"The amendments provide a 50% discount on the $1.50 increase to vendors for the period of the Stage 1 construction, which is the selling side of the facility and scheduled to be completed early next year.

The agreed figures are:

Agents business usage fee $0.50/head (50% reduction from original 2017/18 charges) until the completion of an operational review of the NRLX by June 30, 2018.

Vendor fee $9.90/head (same as 2016/17); vendor capital levy $1.85/head ($0.15/head reduction from original 2017/18 charges). Total vendors fee $11.75/head ($0.75/head reduction from original 2017/18 charges).

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