Legal threat over tick outbreak

By Peter Caton

IT'S the nightmare that lifelong dairy farmers Robert and Sue Harnett and all graziers had been warning against.

Yesterday with a dozen cattle dead and others in danger of dying on their Burringbar property it came true, due to cattle tick fever from Queensland.

"They are pretty devastated by it all. It's a huge blow," said fellow grazier and chairman of the Combined Tweed Rural Industries Association Col Brooks.

The Harnetts, whose family has farmed the property near the heart of Burringbar for generations, were not talking publicly, with their farm quarantined and milk production stopped.

Farmers are furious and threatening combined legal action against the NSW Government which they say let deadly tick fever from Queensland into the North Coast despite years of warnings.

For more than a century successive NSW governments, supported by farmers fought to keep out cattle tick fever, originally spread into Queensland on water buffalo from Indonesia in the 1800s.

This month after an outbreak of tick fever in New Caledonia from Queensland cattle, farmers took their concerns to a NSW Shadow Cabinet meeting at Tweed Heads, furious the Government was not listening. Unknown to many at the time, another outbreak had occurred at Carool west of Tweed Heads, which they now accuse the Department of Primary Industries of keeping secret.

Mr Brooks said the latest outbreak had followed the importation of miniature Dexter cattle from Queensland to a nearby property which also ran goats.

"I really think farmers are going to have to take some kind of legal action against the State Government," said Mr Brooks.

Lismore MP Thomas George said he would be battling for compensation for the Harnetts. "What I want to know now is where are the cattle that have caused the problem."

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