Article by: Hari Yellina
As the local live cattle trade tries to re-establish, the livestock export port and feedlot in Port Hedland is up for sale. Paul Brown, the proprietor of the Hedland Export Depot, said he had persevered despite the prohibition on live cattle exports to Indonesia in 2011 and the resulting lack of commerce. Mr Brown’s Pilbara livestock facilities and feedlot business, meanwhile, had reached the end of its useful life. “However, we’ve simply decided that it’s appropriate to hand over control to another entity, who will most likely perform a better job than we have.” The live cattle trade came to a halt in 2011 as a result of an Indonesian livestock export restriction, and it required another six years for it to resume in a consistent manner.
Six livestock export vessels have left Port Hedland since 2017. Mr Brown attributed the trade’s failure to take off to a lack of regularity in boats and late-season demand from exporters. Mr Brown believes that exporters started obtaining cattle from Queensland and the Northern Territory at the beginning of the northern Australian cattle export season, and then switched to the Pilbara as stock numbers decreased elsewhere. “Unfortunately, it’s late in the season, and pastoralists will have to have a management strategy in place to move livestock on,” he explained. “If the exporters don’t arrive early, [pastoralists] will often relocate [cattle] south.”
Despite his lack of success in running the yards, Mr Brown believed that in the proper hands, the facility might be a sustainable enterprise. “It requires someone who, in addition to owning the yards, both buys and sells cattle and moves livestock through them.” That was the source of our downfall.” Mr Brown also took aim at the local town of Port Hedland, claiming that the council’s lack of support when access concerns to his property occurred was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” “All we had were barriers and difficulties thrown in front of us by the [council] when our access from the highway was shut off,” he said. “That’s the last thing that’s convinced us that we don’t want to be here.”
The Town of Port Hedland declined to be interviewed in response, but issued a statement in which it “strongly disputes the idea that officers were not supportive of Mr Brown’s business.” According to the statement, “[Council] is committed to delivering advocacy and planning services in response to the requirements of local businesses to enhance economic possibilities across the region.” Despite the present slump in commerce, Paul Brown is optimistic about finding a buyer for the Hedland Export Depot, stating that he is in talks with a number of exporters and Australian farming firms.