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Noonkanbah Station investigated for neglect after hundreds of cattle found dead

Rebecca Nadge, Matt Bamford and Michelle Stanley, Saturday January 5, 2019 - 13:03 EDT
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The historic Noonkanbah Station is under investigation over cattle deaths. - ABC

A remote pastoral station is under investigation after hundreds of cattle allegedly died from being left without adequate water in scorching conditions.

The ABC understands the cattle belonged to Noonkanbah Station in Western Australia's far north.

The State Government refused to name the property but said an inspection last week found several hundred animals dead or dying after becoming bogged near watering points.

A further 85 had to be euthanased.

A final figure is yet to be released but it is understood that as many as 1,000 head of cattle may have perished.

Noonkanbah Station is managed by Yungngora Association Incorporated.

Sad turn for historic station

The 170,000 hectare property south of Fitzroy Crossing is recognised for .

Protestors tried to stop American mining company Amax from drilling on Yungngora country, which helped to put land rights on the national agenda.

Minister for Agriculture and Food Alannah MacTiernan said the Livestock Compliance Unit was investigating the incident and would release a report in the coming weeks.

"The management of the station are taking this matter now very seriously but we are deeply concerned that there would appear to be a period that there was no-one doing the work that really needs to be done when you have care and custody of the animals," she said.

"Our investigation is trying to track down precisely how long this went for.

"This has been a very confronting issue for many of our people involved."

Heatwave conditions

Conditions have been challenging for pastoralists in recent months due to a delayed wet season coupled with recent heatwaves.

Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen's Association (KPCA) chairman David Stoate said it was no excuse.

"It is a difficult job at this time of year to ensure all your livestock has access to feed and water in a difficult wet season like we're experiencing now, but every other pastoralist in the Kimberley is managing to meet that challenge every day," he said.

Mr Stoate said the incident reflected badly on the industry when most landowners were doing the right thing.

"I mean every other pastoralist is out there ensuring their livestock do get adequate water and feed, so this incident is a one off," he said.

"It's a matter of ensuring that the management is right, so these incidents don't occur again.

"I'd be surprised if there were issues of this magnitude anywhere else."

Prosecutions may follow

The State Government said those responsible could face prosecution if the investigation found breaches of animal welfare.

Ms MacTiernan said the station's lease could also be reviewed by the Pastoral Lands Board.

In the meantime, neighbouring stations have been contracted to address the welfare of the remaining animals.

"We need to make sure people understand there are legal consequences, there are quite obviously very direct financial consequences," she said.

"This is a very hard and difficult industry to be in and this just indicates that if you take your eye off the ball, even for a relatively short period of time, it can have catastrophic implications.

"The whole industry understands that each one of their players, each time that there is a collapse, particularly if it is a catastrophic collapse of welfare, that affects the whole industry."

In a statement to the ABC, Yungngora Association Incorporated CEO Christopher Wilkin said the association had engaged two contractors before it was given directions notices about the issue by the State Government on December 28.

"The Association ... will continue to address these issues, taking any and all necessary steps needed," the statement reads.

"(Yungngora) also has been working closely with and under advice from the Department in a concerted effort to ensure that immediate and long term sustainable animal welfare is achieved."

Editor's note 5/01/2019: This article has been updated since it was first published on 4/01/2019 to include a comment from Yungngora Association Incorporated.


© ABC 2019

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