State MP for Tweed, Geoff Provest.
State MP for Tweed, Geoff Provest. The Northern Star

Northern Rivers MPs learn about tick fever crisis

ROB and Sue Harnett almost broke down in tears as they told their story of losing 12 head of cattle to tick fever.

The loss to their livelihood has been great.

The Burringbar dairy farmers estimate they are now down $50,000 this year.

They were part of the 150-strong crowd of concerned cattle producers and other members of the cattle industry who attended a meeting with officials and local MPs on Monday night in Casino.

"Two weeks ago I stood up in Parliament and said cattle were dying," Geoff Provest, Tweed MP and co-chairman of the meeting, said.

"It seems to me there is a big hole in the system."

The meeting allowed the average farmer to voice their concerns and government groups to explain where they stood regarding the situation.

It was also a chance for local MPs to prepare to take these concerns to a higher place.

Mr Provest, Steve Cansdell (Clarence), Don Page (Ballina) and Thomas George (Lismore) will raise the tick fever issue in State Parliament next week.

Nine recommendations were made by primary producers at the meeting. These include routine inspections of cattle and properties, improved communication between producers and government groups, and an increase in penalties for those who did not follow correct procedures.

Phil Bevan, of the NSW Department of Primary Industries, said the meeting was a good opportunity to talk about the issues surrounding the tick fever outbreak.

"The department will continue to do what we've always done - keep ticks out of New South Wales," Mr Bevan said.

"We take a risk management approach. We could restrict livestock movements, but that would cause more problems for producers.

"We're trying to create a balance."

The department is calling on cattle owners to visit one of its offices, or go to its website to gain more information on the situation and find ways to help protect their stock from ticks and tick fever.

On Monday, the Minister for Primary Industries, Ian Macdonald, announced a new cattle tick scientific committee had been formed.

This group will be in addition to the Cattle Tick Ministerial Advisory Committee, chaired by Nick Keatinge, who was also present at Monday night's meeting.

"We need an urgent meeting with the Minister," Mr Provest said.

"People like the Harnetts are trying to do the right thing and are being treated badly."

Mr Provest also said he was impressed by the number of people who had turned up for the meeting.

"They were people that are affected the most by this."

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