Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Tasmanian Premier accuses council of bailing on hay deal

Tasmanian Premier, Jeremy Rockliff, says he is disappointed Victoria’s Colac Otway Shire Council has “walked away” from drought-hit King Island farmers, after plans to ship hundreds of bales of hay from Port of Apollo Bay fell through.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Council has made the decision to walk away, despite senior Tasmanian officials dedicating significant time and resources to work with the Council to address any concerns they had and to find a way to open the port in these exceptional circumstances,” said the Premier.

“While the Council did not notify our Government, or farmers of their intention to pull the pin before issuing a public statement, I have requested our officials to continue discussions with the Council while we search for alternative options as a matter of urgency.”

Tasmanian Premier, Jeremy Rockliff.

Mr Rockliff said his Government was continuing to work with Victorian port owners and operators to ensure critical stockfeed could be shipped to King Island farmers.

“The Tasmanian Government will continue to back our farmers and find a way for our farmers to urgently access this stockfeed, particularly for those enduring difficult conditions on King and Flinders Islands,” he said.

In a statement released today, Colac Otway Shire Council said it was supporting a bid to find transport options to deliver the much-needed stockfeed.

“As a farming community, Colac Otway Shire is empathetic to the circumstances facing the King Island farmers and community who have experienced an extended period of dry conditions,” the Council statement read.

Colac Otway Shire Council CEO, Anne Howard.

Council CEO, Anne Howard confirmed registered charity, Need for Feed Australia, had sourced 500 tonnes of current season oaten hay near Swan Hill.

“A range of parties are working to find the most suitable arrangement for the transport of this essential feed to King Island,” Ms Howard said.

She said Council received a request to ship the freight via the Port of Apollo Bay, however said “the scale of the proposed operations cannot be supported at this time”.

“The Port of Apollo Bay is a local port and not a commercial trading port. Council has received an independent engineering report that has assessed that freight movements of this scale present risks to the port’s infrastructure and operations,” she said.

Hay bails ready to be shipped to drought-stricken King Island farmers, thanks to Need for Feed volunteers.

“Colac Otway Shire Council, as the port manager, and the Victorian Department of Transport and Planning, as the port owner, have determined that until those risks are resolved it is not appropriate to approve the movement of this freight at this time, especially while viable options are available.”

The Council says hay and feed can be readily shipped from commercial ports across Victoria including Portland, Geelong and Welshpool.

“There are a number of vessels currently operating from these ports to King Island that could accommodate this request,” it said.

“Council understands that these alternative ports may come a greater cost, however there are ports that are already well-equipped and experienced in the safe and effective movement of this freight, and with the urgency required.”

Ms Howard said the Council will continue to work collaboratively with the Department of State Growth in Tasmania and Victoria’s Department of Transport and Planning to find a solution for the King Island community.

“Providing aid to the farmers of King Island is something Council wholeheartedly supports and we are keen to see the freight moving from northern Victoria as soon as possible,” she said.

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