Lease comes back to bite
A TUCABIA family should be allowed to continue grazing cattle on a Crown reserve near the town, despite attempts to kick them off.
The Grebert family has been grazing cattle on the 6.1ha Riverbank Reserve for seven years under lease from the land managers, Clarence Valley Council.
On March 30, the day before the lease expired, council staff informed the family they had issues with the way the land had been managed.
They told the grazier, Steve Grebert, the lease would not be renewed and the area would be planted with trees as part of the council's Riparian Strategy and in line with its Biodiversity Management Plan.
Last Tuesday, Mr Grebert's wife Sue disputed the decision at the council's environment, planning and works meeting.
Mrs Grebert said she and her husband were shocked when council officers Rod Wright and Julie Mousley told them the reason behind the decision.
"They said we had not met the conditions of our grazing licence," Mrs Grebert said.
"They said there were three reasons behind the decision: we had failed to erect a fence 5m from the edge of the riparian zone, hadn't planted shade trees council supplied and failed to poison camphor laurels."
She said the council had not informed them of any problems prior to the March 30 meeting and the council's silence contravened its licence agreement with the family.
She also presented the council with a petition containing 102 signatures from the Tucabia community that called for the council to maintain the status quo on the land.
During debate, councillors apologised to the family for its actions and moved a series of amendments to ensure the family were able to continue grazing cattle on the land.
The council's director of works and civil Troy Anderson said he was unsure why they had not been contacted about the issues with the lease agreement.
"Council has numerous leases like this and we don't hold regular meetings with the licence holders," he said.
He said it appeared the licensees had not fulfilled their obligations and the council had not kept up its end of the arrangement.
Councillor Jim Simmons was not so diplomatic.
"I don't accept there's any fault on the part of Mr and Mrs Grebert," he said.
"Part of the review of grazing leases was looking into how licence conditions were being met.
"It said there was no improvement in the riparian zone, but there was no deterioration either.
"Most people in Tucabia seem happy with presentation of the reserve."
Mrs Grebert said after the meeting she was happy with the committee's response, which would be presented to the full meeting of council today.