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Australian dairy at a critical juncture – industry report

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Australian dairy at a critical juncture
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Australian dairy at a critical juncture – industry report

The Australian dairy industry is at “a critical juncture”, with recent record-breaking profitability in the sector offering a solid footing to reboot much-needed growth in milk production, according to a new research report.
The report, Australian Dairy Industry: At an Important Juncture, by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank, says “after a rollercoaster ride” over the past decade, Australia’s dairy sector has experienced a remarkable turnaround, underpinned by favourable seasonal conditions, high farmgate pricing and a shift in the balance of power within the supply chain (with increasing competition for milk supply and the introduction of the Dairy Industry Code of Conduct).
But capitalising on this current strong position to invest in expanding national milk production will be “vital” for the future success of Australia’s dairy industry, the report says, to take advantage of growth opportunities in export markets.
Report author, Rabobank senior dairy analyst Michael Harvey said in recent years the Australian dairy sector had navigated a “perfect storm of widespread drought, isolated bushfires and floods – all coupled with a severe global market and unprecedented industry disruption and instability”.
“This turmoil resulted in a squeeze on the profit pool and a drop in milk solids produced,” he said. “It also zapped farmer confidence, which ultimately heralded a major shift in how the supply chain operates.”

Solid footing
Right now, though, the report says, the dairy industry finds itself on a solid footing, with record-breaking profitability for many. “The southern Australian dairy region is on track for a third consecutive season of outperforming industry benchmarks for average EBIT (earnings before interest and tax). And there has been a lift in confidence levels and investment intentions,” it says.
However, Mr Harvey said, while some recovery in national milk production has been underway, so far, the milk supply response has “underwhelmed initial expectations”, despite the period of farmgate profitability.
“The Australian dairy supply chain processed 8.86 billion litres of milk in 2020/21, 950 million litres less than in 2014/15, with 55 per cent of the fall coming from the northern Victoria irrigation system,” he said.

Milk growth momentum
Mr Harvey said expanding Australia’s national milk supply is “essential to the growth prospects of the Australian dairy industry as it aims to construct sustained growth outside of a maturing domestic market”.
“In contrast to the local market, key dairy export markets have considerable headroom for growth in the coming decade, particularly in emerging Asia,” he said. “This means offshore markets provide plenty of ‘blue sky’ and exports will remain the engine of growth for the sector.”
However, without sufficient milk supply growth, the Australian sector will face challenges penetrating growth markets offshore, the report says.
“A vibrant industry requires a strong presence in growing export markets and being able to fully leverage existing access to Asian supply chains,” Mr Harvey said. “Australian dairy has some strong global market credentials, but a lack of a sustained growing milk pool is a weakness to overcome.
“Even with the mature domestic market, demand from key customers is outstripping supply growth, and many customers in the industry will require more volume over the next decade.”

‘Missed’ opportunity
The report says with the Australian dairy supply chain short of milk solids and the foundations in place for a period of investment “on farm and for milk production growth”, the stage is set for the industry to take advantage.
“If this strong run of healthy farm profitability, elevated investment ambition and positive investment outlook does not result in some well-executed long-term investments, it will be a missed opportunity for the industry in reigniting growth,” Mr Harvey said.
“And to fully unlock growth, significant long-term capital investment is required to increase efficiency and production capacity.”

Profitable investment
The Rabobank report says Australia’s dairy sector is expected to provide profitable capital investment opportunities for farm businesses over the next decade.
“While a transformational lift in profitability is not expected, there is a compelling case that the industry may outperform the previous decade in terms of EBIT performance,” Mr Harvey said.
The report notes investing for long-term growth will not be the right strategy for every dairy farm business.
“While a growing industry is vital for the wider sector, the reality is that farm businesses should only invest in growth if there is a profitable and sufficient return based on any planned investment strategy. And for enterprises willing to invest, a well-structured plan and consideration of capital at risk is required,” he said.

Changing supply chain

A close watch also needs to be kept on the changing dairy supply chain, with further shifts, consolidation and rationalisation expected in the coming decade.
“This constant supply chain evolution – which includes a variety of dairy company business models with very different product mixes, manufacturing footprints and growth priorities – provides increased options for dairy producers and presents risks and opportunities for farm businesses,” Mr Harvey said.
The Rabobank report says a focus on reducing environmental impacts throughout the dairy supply chain will also remain a consistent theme over the coming decade.
“There is a goal to reduce emissions intensity by 30 per cent from 2015 levels by 2030, with more ambitious targets also being considered,” Mr Harvey said.
“It is important to take a long-term view on the opportunities that will come with these investments, including productivity and efficiency gains, carbon sequestration incentives, and potential access to high-margin and/or high-growth markets.”

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CORAKI FERRY

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Coraki Ferry
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CORAKI FERRY

 

By Helen Trustum

From about the time of 1849 when a permanent settlement was established at Coraki and William Yabsley was able to obtain the lease of Brook Station and with the passing of the Robertson Land Act in 1861, many new settlers arrived.  A plan to build a “Village of Coraki” was made in 1866.  From then on, the settlement began to grow and a public ferry crossing was needed.

A new ferry for this service was built by William Yabsley Jnr. and launched by him in August 1879. This service operated from a point in the river near the Police Station. Local Member, Mr Robert Pyers received many requests for a bridge over the South Arm.

Ferryman, Andy Arthurson during 1965 Flood

Ferryman, Andy Arthurson during 1965 Flood

In 1891 “Scrubby” Nolan obtained the lease to operate the ferry for 10 pounds, the next year it went to Patrick Gillick for 53 pounds then in later years J. Hutchinson paid 93 pounds. However, there were many complaints about the service. The early ferries had no gates or side rails. There were problems with the ferry approaches as they were steep and slippery in wet weather.

By the 1880’s both Yabsley and Yeager had established successful shipping enterprises and Coraki was a busy inland port. There was obviously a huge increase in the use of a ferry.

On 10th February 1897 it was noted in John McKinnons diary that Council decided to take over another ferry at Coraki to be established at the foot of Adam Street.

Allan Trustum and Helen Maxwell crossing the Coraki Ferry in 1965

Allan Trustum and Helen Maxwell crossing the Coraki Ferry in 1965

Public Works annual report 1898 – 1899 recorded that a new hand ferry was built at Adam Street.

During 1904 the Government announced that it would endeavour to convert all ferries to steam, but this was not accomplished in Coraki until September 1910 when a steam ferry built in Ballina went into operation.

Allan Clark with his horse crossing the Coraki Ferry

Allan Clark with his horse crossing the Coraki Ferry

Responsibility for roads, bridges and ferries was in the hands of the Department of Public Works from the late 1850’s. In 1925 the Main Roads Board assumed responsibility. This became the Department of Main Roads in 1932 and in 1989 the Roads and Traffic Authority.

Glebe Bridge over the South Arm of the Richmond River was built with the first pile driven in 1904. The bridge was always referred to as the Pyers Bridge, as Robert Pyers officially opened the South Arm Bridge on 4th May 1905 at a cost of 9,500 pounds.

Water hyacinth was always a menace in the river where a flood was the only effective way of getting rid of it.

Coraki Ferry

Coraki Ferry

The Arthurson Family deserve recognition in the Coraki Ferry story. Men from the Arthurson family have a special record, for at one stage, three brothers manned Richmond River Ferries. Jack was on Burns Point, Angus (Spark) on Woodburn and Andy on Coraki. These men had previously worked on river boats, as their father before them. “Spark” was on the small relief ferry when it sank in the February 1951 flood at Woodburn. Sadly, “Spark” himself was drowned on 20th June 1960, when his car plunged off the Coraki Ferry into the Richmond River.

A grand occasion was held for the opening of the $1.6 million bridge on 23rd May 1990. The bridge was officially opened by the Minister for National Resources Mr Ian Causley, while Coraki Councillor, Mr Ken Thomas shared cutting the ribbon. Over 5,000 people were in attendance on this special day in Coraki to witness the opening of the bridge after 92 years of ferry service.

Warren Robinson one of the last operators of the Coraki Ferry. He was part of a team of five men operating the ferry service for the last 10 years leading up to the ferry ceasing operation. Before Coraki, Warren worked at Woodburn until it was replaced by a bridge in 1982. The Coraki Ferry was shipped to Ulmarra on the Clarence, for the Ulmarra run.

Memories:

Ray Hunt: I have crossed all the ferries on the South and North Arm of the Richmond Riveras it was named. From Tuckurimba where I live, I crossed the Broadwater Ferry for 41 years. I retired in 1998 and a bridge was built the following year. Nearly call that bad luck. The ferrymen over the years were a fine bunch of men either day or night. It always paid to be good friends, or they would leave you waiting on the bank.

Men, Ray Hunt recall’s: Ollie Ryan – Coraki, Spark and Andy Arthurson- Coraki, Bill Tarplee- Coraki,  Warren Robinson- Coraki,  Jim Haynes – Woodburn, John Gallagher- Woodburn, Col Sauer- Broadwater, Jim Trellfo- Wardell.

Robert Maxwell: I remember the time when a certain resident came to the ferry on his way home from a night in Coraki. After entering the ferry, he went off to sleep and the ferry man could not wake him. This caused a problem, so he was left in the car on the ferry where he went back and forwards across the river till daylight.

Ferryman at Coraki: Courtesy of booklet “Ferry to Bridge, Crossing the Richmond River at Coraki”.

The First Ferry, William Tunstall, W. Watt, John McVicar, Nelson, Charles Sharpe. Bloom, Gillespie, “Scrubby” Nolan, Patrick Gillick, N. Manlow, J. Hutchinson, P. Roche and J. Hile.

Adam Street Ferry – Paddy Roche, Joe Nix, Jack Day, Ted Sheather, Mr Fairhall, “Dad” Roberts, Ted Coombes, Dave Williams, P. B. O’Conner, H. Louis, J. Mc Intyre, C.J. Cavanaugh, T. Andrews, Murray, C.S. Smith,

C.A Gillum, D.S. Rosman, P. Orchard, A.V. Bottrell, Max Saxon, J. Evans, Andy Arthurson, Spark Arthurson, Sandy Davis, Foggy Richards, C. Gilbert, Neil Wallace, F. Webber, H.L. Morton, W. Greber.

J. R. McFadden, A.J. Winslade, W. Tarplee, Reg Black, Lyndon Everingham, Stan Everingham, J. Nighingdale, M. Chaffy, Ollie Ryan, Jim Haynes, Colin Sauer, M. Milligan, W. Robinson, J. Gollan, A. Wilkes.

Ref: Ferry to Bridge – Crossing the Richmond River at Coraki, published by the Mid Richmond Historical Society: Northern Star.

 

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TATHAM FERRY

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TATHAM FERRY

 

By Helen Trustum

In the early days of dairying in the Richmond Valley, river boats played an important role in the transport of cream from dairy farms to the factory. Cream boats provided a service to farms that were often difficult to access by road and easily isolated in times of flooding. The cream boats traversed to the Richmond River from Woodburn to Coraki, before returning to Coraki and travelling up the Wilson River to Lismore.

As stated in the Richmond River Herald 16/3/1909 The Coraki / Tatham people were overjoyed when they were getting a ferry to operate across the river at Tatham.

Tatham Ferry - Johnny Schneider, Jill Barnett ( on horse), Ted Richardson, Johnny and Janice Patfield ( near horse). Photo supplied by Jill Barnett.

Tatham Ferry – Johnny Schneider, Jill Barnett ( on horse), Ted Richardson, Johnny and Janice Patfield ( near horse). Photo supplied by Jill Barnett.

A large number of townspeople met at the Coraki Rowing Club Shed to witness the launching of the new ferry built at the order of Tomki Shire, by Alf Conroy for the ferry service at Tatham. The new punt, which was decorated with flags, entered the water with a resounding smack, though very little spray fell on the deck. After the craft had been launched everyone made to the Rowing Club Shed where bottles were uncorked and the Engineer of Woodburn Shire, Mr A Adams proposed a toast to ”The Punt”. Mr Adams remarked: that he had taken a keen interest in the building of the punt. He congratulated both Tomki and Woodburn Shire on sourcing such a first class punt and trusted that it would have a long and successful career in the ferry service at Tatham.

Tatham Ferry - 1950. Fred Murphy and Kathleen McFadden ( first cousins)

Tatham Ferry – 1950. Fred Murphy and Kathleen McFadden ( first cousins)

The punt measured 30 feet in length (9.15 metres), 12 feet 3 inches(3.75 metres) beams and 3 feet deep  (91.5cm) with two 9 feet flap (2.75 metres).. The outside planking was built of Oregon pine, while the deck and upper works were hardwood. The ferry was sheathed with galvanized iron and carried three coats of tar inside and out. It was indeed one of the staunchest punts on the river and every way a credit to the designer Mr Kirkpatrick and builder Mr Alf Conroy.

On 16th December 1913, The Public works acknowledged approval of receipt of tender for one hundred and forty pound, eight shillings to J.H. Easterbrook for working on the ferry.

Tom Marsh at Tatham Post Office - 1977

Tom Marsh at Tatham Post Office – 1977

Ferryman, in 1917 was Mr J. Birmingham. He was given approval on 17th September 1917 for working the Tatham Ferry at 164 pounds and 5 shillings per year. Although it was not the lowest tender but a very popular one as Council had received a signed petition in his favor. President, Mr Sullivan, said he had explained the position to the Department in Sydney and they had said, they would like a returned soldier to work the punt.

The punt was almost on the boundary of Gundurimba Shire and visitors to the area used the punt almost as much as the ratepayers. For that reason, he did not think Tomki Shire should be saddled with the whole expense.

The Tatham Ferry was in service until 11th January 1968 then a new bridge was being built starting on 22nd October 1963.

Tatham Post Office

Tatham Post Office

Memories:

Frank Brown (now deceased): who was 92 years old at the time in 2020 remembered the great times as a lad growing up at Tatham, when the young ones of the district would meet at the Tatham Ferry and go swimming. This would happen every Sunday during summer. The ferry driver Gus Lewin would park the ferry in the middle of the river so the children could dive off. All the time watching for cars. They included children from Browns, Magners, Hancocks, Lyle and Kevin Clarke and Neville Cowan.

Frank also remembered the teacher from Pidcocks Lane School, which was over the river from the Brown property. Her name was Sally Rankin. Sally later married George Cox from Tatham. Each school day Sally would ride her horse from their property (known as Ray Mison’s) across the little ferry at Tatham and down to Pidcocks Lane School.

Jack Donovan (now deceased): In those early days of settlement at Tatham, Jack Donovan recalled in notes that it was necessary for a crossing at Tatham. The ferry consisted of pine and cedar chained together and a rope was fastened to trees on both sides, so it could be pulled over.

Joe Rathbourne was the first man to build a hotel at Tatham, on the south bank close to the wharf. The river near the wharf was a popular spot for swimming. A swimming club was formed in the 1920’s.

During flood times, great care had to be taken with the ferry disconnecting the rope so the ferry could be pulled up on to the bank to stop it being washed away. The main rope had to be dropped further down in the river so all boat traffic could pass by.

There was a bell that people could ring to alert the ferryman. This bell was given to the Casino Public School.

Tom Marsh (now deceased): Some early reflections from Tom Marsh from his notes:

Wharf was built by Mr Rankin on the south bank. There was also a store, hotel, blacksmith, saddler’s, fruit shop, bakers, George Smith Bootmaker and Mr Wilson’s Creamery.

The village was built in a very flooded area. 1887 “Big Flood”, 1891, 1893, !921 “Big Flood”, March 1931, then a series 1945, 1948 and the big one 1954.

Tatham Public School opened at The Red Hill, at Tatham, Johnathan McInnes was the teacher. Convent School opened in 1906 with a few desks in the back of the church. School Hall was built in 1908.

Marie Kempton: The family all had fun swimming off the ferry, that was all the “Tatham-ites”. They were O’Donnells, De Lewins, Wares, Eckerts and the Parkers. During the 1954 flood, Marie along with her family, the Small’s, took refuge on the road outside Parkers house.

Colleen Knight: Gus De Lewin was one of the ferry operators also the cream carrier. His family Sonia, Jo, Florence and a younger one would help him on the cream truck.

Ferry Drivers: Harry Windsor, Nugget and Archie Lamont, G. Schneider, John Birmingham, Tom Donovan, J. Watts, Gus De Lewin, Bill Leahy, Joe Rathbourne, Albert Avery, J. Frost, J.W. Easterbrook,

Ref: Mid Richmond Historical Society at Coraki, Jack Donovan’s memories, Tom Marsh’s memories, records shared by Elaine Trustum, Tatham.

 

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WYRALLAH FERRY

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Fred West on Wyrallah Ferry
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WYRALLAH FERRY

 

By Helen Trustum

Nestled in the hills 10 kilometers south of Lismore lies Wyrallah. It was once a thriving place when it boasted a mill, brickworks, four hotels, two wine shops, four butcher shops, churches and a school as well as other stores and public buildings. One of the first sawmills on the Richmond River was erected in the early 1860’s at Wyrallah on what was known as the North Arm. In 1862 Mr William Lane and son Albert landed from the schooner “Josephine” and erected a slab hut. Shortly after the paddle boat “Rainbow” arrived from Port Stephens with the machinery for the owner James and Captain Robert Beckenridge. Within a year the mill was operating. Beckenridge Brothers had their teams of bullocks, trucks, drays, horses and cattle were bought overland from Port Stephens, Via Grafton and the Tablelands.

Randle Children off to school by crossing river in the boat

Randle Children off to school by crossing river in the boat

Referring to the ferry, Gundurimba Shire records make note of it functioning in 1885. The ferryman’s cottage beside the Wilsons River was built about the same time the ferry started operating on the 1st September 1885. The ferry carried foot passengers, animals, horses, gigs and drays, with the ferry wound across the river by hand. When the ferry sank in the 1890 flood, it was sent to Ballina for repairs. Foot passengers and horseman were carried by boat and the horses swam the river.

The ferrymen operated the Wyrallah ferry, in 24 hour shifts. These men were: Bill George, Fred West Snr., James Edward Pearce, Charles Tonkin, Mr Nipperess, Herb and Ray Whitney. (only names I have found out).

Fred West under new bridge at Wyrallah Ferry - 1968

Fred West under new bridge at Wyrallah – 1968

The last ferry operator before the bridge was built in 1968 was Mr Charles Tonkin. The new Wyrallah Bridge was officially opened by the Honourable Sir Davis Hughes, Minister for Public Works on 31st August 1968.

The Wyrallah Ferry was then moved to Swan Bay and the Ferrymans House was moved just a few hundred metres to the rear of the Wyrallah Bush Fire Brigade headquarters.  Wyrallah residents were very happy with their new bridge.

Ferryman's Cottage near the Wyrallah Ferry

Ferryman’s Cottage near the Wyrallah Ferry

Memories:

Dawn Coles, (nee Randle): was reared at Ferros Lane, Ruthven in a family of 13. The children loved the river and every chance they had the Randle children would be swimming in the river. That is where they learnt to swim with their father getting them to jump into the water while they were tied on to a long rope. Dawn remembers the Gallagher Family often fishing at night. Travelling to the school at Wyrallah the children had to cross the river by boat. Dawn also rode her pony to school where she would cross the ferry. This was in the early 1950’s.

Marie Essery, (nee West): lived with her parents, Fred and Elsie West on Tuckean Island. When it came for her to attend school at Wyrallah she was boarded at Ray and Mavis Prentice’s home near the Wyrallah ferry.  Marie is the Grand Daughter of the Ferry Master at Wyrallah, Fred West Snr. and his wife Lavina, who lived in the Ferrymans cottage near the ferry. Fred operated the ferry for many years.

Jim Pearce: His Grandfather James Edward Pearce was the ferryman at Wyrallah. Jim spent many great weekends sitting on the side gate fishing for garfish. This would have been between 1953 and 1955.

David Barnsley: As a child, David used to go on the run delivering bread for McLeish’s Bakery over the ferry and back to town. One day the river was swollen with flood water. He found it very scary as he had to hand wind the ferry over and with all the logs and debris coming downstream at him, he said the responsibility was way beyond his paygrade $0.

Fred Hoskins: Fred still lives at Wyrallah and at 92 years of age, remembers when Bill George retired from operating the Wyrallah Ferry and went to live in Sydney. Every time he heard the bell ringing at the railway station, he would say “COMING”. Fred said it took a long time to get that out of his mind. As that was the way of telling the Ferry Crew, they were on the other side waiting for the ferry. Bill was Ferrymaster at Wyrallah during the 1920’s.

Ref: Northern Star, Fred Hoskins Wyrallah, May Essery Mullumbimby, and Dawn Coles Lismore.

 

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