Kyogle cattle grids battle
By EMMA O'NEILL
A SEXTONVILLE couple may be forced to sell their farm because of a letter they received from Kyogle Shire Council.
Jeff Peck and Uschi Meyer received the letter from the council just before Christmas.
The letter outlined various minimum insurance and construction specifications for their cattle grids, and a process of upgrading that the couple estimate would cost around $20,000.
A council spokesman disputed their figures.
Mr Peck said the year had been tough enough because of the drought without an additional burden they 'simply can't afford'.
"I had to cancel a $250 insurance policy for our tractor because we couldn't afford it. Now the council have asked us to increase the insurance for each cattle grid by about the same amount," he said.
On top of having a minimum public liability cover of $10 million, each property owner has been made responsible to ensure that their grids met construction standards detailed in a 17-page document.
Jeff and Uschi's neighbour, Grant Shedden, also received the letter and couldn't stop shaking his head while he flicked through the document.
"This is simply ridiculous. Some of the things in this document are totally over the top," he said.
Mr Shedden referred to such specifications as 'bolts, nuts and washers to be hot-dip galvanised to AS 1214' as specifications which were beyond the comprehension of most farmers.
He estimated that with three grids on his property it would cost him at least $30,000 to comply with such standards, which he believed were higher than those on surrounding council roads.
Kyogle Shire Council director of technical services Frank Winter said the letter council sent had been well received by most farmers responsible for hundreds of grids in the area.
He said most owners were unaware of their responsibility on cattle grids.
Under State legislation the council is only able to issue cattle grids when basic standards are met.
Contrary to Mr Peck's assumption they would have no option but to pay for modifications, Mr Winter said the council would consider the financial impact of the drought on farmers.
Mr Winter said signing the letter did not tie cattle grid owners into paying the full bill up-front. He also said the estimated cost for most grids would be around $5000, not $20,000 as predicted by Mr Peck and Mr Shedden.
Mr Peck said the letter had left him and his partner in a terrible situation.
"This is really serious. If we are forced to pay it, I really can't see us being able to keep our farm," he said.