Forbes, Dubbo saleyard troubles park national review of livestock transport industry

The NHVR's Sal Petrocitto at Forbes saleyards on Tuesday (also on our cover with Ray Hassall and John Gilbert). Photo - Rachael Webb.
The NHVR's Sal Petrocitto at Forbes saleyards on Tuesday (also on our cover with Ray Hassall and John Gilbert). Photo - Rachael Webb.

Improvement notices issued by the Roads and Maritime Services ordering Forbes and Dubbo saleyards to install weighbridges are now under review.

This comes after these saleyards pushed back on demands by the RMS that they foot the bill to install weighbridge facilities, which would have cost into the millions of dollars (“Saleyards in shambles”, The Land, October 4, p5).

Main players talk about the debacle.

These concerns were similar to those raised in February by National Farmers’ Federation chief executive officer Tony Mahar about the practicality of the chain of responsibility laws for farmers before the changes were introduced (“NFF: ramifications of new trucking laws could be ‘quite enormous”,, February 7).

This included farmers carrying the responsibility for ensuring “what’s effectively a sub-contractor or service provider, is compliant with the law”, Mr Mahar said at the time.

In response to the weighbridge stand-off, the National Heavy Vehicle Reguator’s chief executive Sal Petrocitto visited Forbes Central West Livestock Exchange on Tuesday to learn how saleyards operate.

He heard the push by RMS to insist local councils that owned saleyards should be defined as “loading managers” under chain of responsibility legislation was nothing more than cost shifting, something that was currently costing councils in NSW $800 million a year.

Mr Petrocitto, who was raised on an orchard at Stanthorpe and on his first ever visit to a saleyard, was quick to point out improvement notices served on Forbes and Dubbo saleyards were issued under outdated legislation, updated on October 1.

When the review will be complete is as yet unclear, but Mr Petrocitto added that harmonisation of heavy vehicle laws across Australia was also on the agenda.

In South Australia and Tasmania, the NHVR was already responsible for regulation and enforcement, replacing state bodies.

At the moment, other states are still responsible for the regulatory component of vehicle registration, he said.

“But we already have a national heavy vehicle registration plate,” he said.

Forbes Shire Council general manager Steve Loane praised the NHVR for coming to investigate.

He said RMS currently operated as an enforcer for NHVR, essentially as a contractor for enforcing national regulations and it was paid for this, but cost shifting to local councils had increased.

Mr Petrocitto said it was time saleyards, livestock transporters and processors came together to discuss pressing issues facing the industry.

“ALMA (Australian Livestock Markets Association) has been fantastic, they’ve taken some really strong leadership in actually bringing this issue to the table,” he said.