Life on the land in Australia

Government may prosecute farmer if he takes 300 cattle through national park for greener pastures

GRAZIER Matt French has a mountain to climb to keep his cattle alive but he’s been blocked at the pass.

East of the Snowy Mountains, at Adaminaby, Mr French’s herd of 300 cattle only has one week’s worth of grass left to eat.

For the last five months his herd has been living on the narrow strip of grass between farm fences and roads known as the long paddock after he moved them off his drought ravaged farm at Tumut, but there’s no longer enough grass to graze.

Cattle in various regions feed on whatever grass they can spot along farm fences. Image: P.McIver

There is very little grass available for the large herds. Image: P.McIver

To the west of the mountain range, Mr French’s farm now has green grass that’s shot up after a warm fortnight and 117mm of rainfall in the last three months.

But the state government has threatened Mr French with prosecution if he leads his herd through the Kosciuszko National Park for five days to reach those greener pastures. And animal cruelty legislation prevents him transporting the heavily pregnant cattle back to the farm by truck because they are deemed “unfit to load”.


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Mr French, 43, his wife, Chrissie, 43, and their son Dan, 14, are stranded between the Snowies and a dry place.

They will likely risk prosecution in an act of civil disobedience by taking the cattle through the mountain range within the week.

“The reality is we’ll have to walk the cattle through whether the government and greenies like it or not,” Mr French said.

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One former MP couldn’t understand why brumbies are given legal protection yet won’t allow a farmer to take his cattle along the trail.

Former Nationals member for Monaro, Peter Cochran, couldn’t comprehend why the state government gave brumbies from the Snowy Mountains legal protection to roam through the alpine region but wouldn’t give a drought-stricken farmer an exemption to drove his cattle along the subalpine fire trails, that aren’t as environmentally sensitive.

“The common sense option is to move the cattle over the mountains, or he’ll have to sell his cattle for next to nothing,” Mr Cochran said.

“Ever since settlement, when drought kicks in, you take the cattle on the road and it’s disappointing that stock routes used for 150 years, which don’t enter alpine or wilderness areas, have been closed off.”

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said Local Land Service has been trying to contact Mr French over the phone but he has always been unavailable. Picture: AAP Image/Erik Anderson

According to the Office of Environment and Heritage, which has authority over NSW national parks, farmers haven’t been able to use the stock route between Adaminaby and Tumut since 2008.

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said agricultural government agency Local Land Services, which rules over the travelling stock routes, has been constantly trying to contact Mr French over the phone but he has always been unavailable.

Mr Blair said allowing Mr French a special exemption to drove cattle through the national park would open the floodgates.

“We want to make sure he and his cattle get home safely,” Mr Blair said.

“A local farmer might be able to take his cattle on agistment until they give birth, then they can be transported by truck, but we’ll continue to work with him until it’s resolved.”











Henry Sapiecha

September 16th, 2018

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