With no end to the drought in sight and producers looking to Queensland’s unique stock routes to find grass and water for hungry cattle, it is clear that more money is required to maintain this vital network for future generations.
AgForce and the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) have united in a call to increase the travel and agistment permit fees to provide adequate funding for maintenance.
Grazier Peter Hall said that the unsustainable low access fees met less than five per cent of the costs of maintaining the network – the shortfall being met by local Councils and therefore all ratepayers.
“This is clearly unsatisfactory and unsustainable, placing an unfair impost on western councils,” Mr Hall said.
“AgForce, along with the LGAQ, are pushing strongly for a system in which the stock route system pays for itself via user access costs.
“The current fees that were set decades ago, are so low that they encourage poor behaviour and misuse of the stock routes merely for grazing rather than for the intended purpose of transit.
“They don’t allow local governments to recoup the actual costs associated with managing the network, let alone undertaking remediation and/or improvements.”
AgForce, LGAQ and drovers are currently participating in a review of the fees and strategy being undertaken by the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (DNRME).
“We commend the collaborative and consultative approach DNRME have taken to review the Stock Route Management Regulation 2003 and the Stock Route Network Strategy,” he said.
The DNRME held a series of workshops with key stakeholders in Longreach, Roma, Emerald and Kingaroy with the recommendations from these events considered today at a final workshop in Brisbane.
The workshops reached general agreement that:
- major stock routes should primarily be managed for travelling stock
- further guidance provided to users as to when slow moving stock are permitted on the network
- travel and agistment permit fees should be increased
- application fees should be charged for travelling stock and agistment and directed back into the network.
CEO of the LGAQ, Greg Hallam, said the review of the regulation and strategy was of significant interest to Queensland local governments.
“Local governments are responsible for day to day management and overall compliance on the stock route network,” Mr Hallam said
“Local governments recoup just 4% of the costs of managing the stock route network with minimal capacity to recoup costs based on the current fee structure.
“Over several decades, both LGAQ and AgForce have sought legislative reform to provide a fair and equitable mechanism for all stakeholders and to adequately resource management of the stock route network.”
“We’ve missed a few opportunities to reform the network over the last decade and we’re loathe to miss another – especially at a time like now when the network is in strong demand from users.
“We’re looking forward to working with the department and Minister to work to raise these fees in an effort to improve the situation as soon as possible.
“Queensland’s stock route network is an amazing asset which we want to continue to use and enjoy in the future.
“This is not about raising fees so high that it is cost-prohibitive to access the network.
“This is about ensuring that costs paid are fair and reasonable so that the network is around for generations to come.”