At the time, there was an obvious need to reform the current management and operation of the Queensland Stock Route Network (SRN) with issues such as:
- Overgrazing by landholders
- Inconsistencies across councils – problems when crossing multiple borders over long trip
- SRN being used for substitute agistment instead of travelling stock
- Fees charged not adequate to cover costs
- Asset management (eg waters) were of concern as some maintained by landholders adjacent and some by Council
- Their management was just not working: parochialism and resourcing were a problem
At AgForce’s and LGAQ’s insistence, the Stock Routes Advisory Panel (SRAP) was formed. This brought together State and local Governments, drovers, conservationists and producers, agreeing on a set of recommendations to be implemented.
Fast forward a decade and a number of governments have come and gone, nearly all presenting their version of how the SRN should be reformed. Not to be outdone, this government in November presented the Stock Route Reform Bill 2016. Unfortunately, what’s different about this particular Bill is that whilst it certainly brings about some reform, its failure to take some simple political decisions mean that we will potentially spend a whole lot of time implementing a new system, only to see the same issues manifest.
In simple terms, this version of the Bill will:
a) Establish a hierarchy of Use
- Highest use priority will be travelling of stock either at a standard or a slow pace.
- Second highest use priority is emergency grazing and provision for travelling stock that become unfit to travel;
- Third highest use priority is static grazing (both long and short-term);
- Lowest use priority is pasture harvesting
b) Have a new revenue stream with the State Government setting fees for travelling stock and minimum fees for grazing approvals.
The Local Government having the ability to increase the grazing approval fee above the base fee on the stock route network and set the fee for pasture harvesting.
Unhelpfully however, the current government’s political promise to not increase taxes means they’ve disregarded the SRAP recommendation to raise the rate for travelling stock from the archaic 1c/head/day figure. Effectively this means that you’re unlikely to be attracting the type of crowd that will look after the route and invest real money in its health.
Further, whilst local government can set the rates for Grazing Authority (GA)’s, with no set cap, there’s likely to be variation amongst what is paid, where.
c) Provides a new, two-tier classification system for stock routes into primary and secondary.
d) Will require graziers using the route for static grazing to obtain a new GA. Existing permits to occupy on the route will be transitioned over.
So what’s the problem you ask?
Rents need to engender sustainable use of the network but be consistent across shires.
We are well aware that asking people to obtain and pay for a GA on stock route land they might have been previously grazing for free is not going to make us popular. Nor will increasing rates for travelling stock to something more aligned to today’s values. However, AgForce’s ultimate aim has been to have a well-funded and maintained SRN available for use in dry times – and setting rents too low just won’t deliver this.
Further, it means the cost of maintaining the SRN falls on all rent-payers rather than its users.
Another issue we’ve got is that to address misuse (arising either from producer’s overgrazing, local government misuse or lack of investment by state government) you actually need a stick.
This Bill disregards numerous conversations that local governments and AgForce have had over the last decade by failing to put in place any oversight group, or particular resourcing for this unfortunate but necessary evil.
Long-term Investment into a sustainable and well-managed network
One of the better aspects of this Bill is that it returns all monies raised through GAs to the relevant local government for investment into SRN infrastructure. However, this won’t cover all costs and this means that councils will be reliant on the whims of state government to fund the shortfall – something that doesn’t encourage good long term asset planning.
The Bill is currently in the Parliamentary Committee with submissions due on 12 December 2016. AgForce will be lodging a submission but encourages landholders to do the same. Go to https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-committees/committees/IPNRC/inquiries/current-inquiries/SRNMB2016 for more information.