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WHAT should be the biggest issue for CBH right now?
In May 2020 Transport Minister Rita Saffioti announced an independent engineering report on Tier 3 rail lines.
This was the first and a very positive State government move in the Tier 3 rail saga - an announcement welcome to so many.
On August 24 a meeting of 240 growers in Kulin unanimously moved that the meeting "strongly supports reopening and upgrade of unused Tier 3 rail and requests that all CBH directors support the meeting and its shareholders wishes for CBH to work closely with the WA State government to bring Tier 3 lines back into operation for a long-term least cost rail freight path to port".
With a motion from about 240 shareholders and the potential for the largest investment into Wheatbelt rail infrastructure for a century, surely as much freight on rail as possible should be CBH's focus right now.
However, an October 27 letter to CBH chairman Simon Stead, from members of the WRRA Committee requesting full and open co-operation with the alliance to ensure the industry has a united approach to this vital issue, has not been responded to.
CBH should be lobbying the Federal government for funding to contribute to the re-opening and rebuilding of the railway network which will improve the freight/rail pathway to port.
There seems to be plenty of funding available from both State and Federal governments in the Eastern States, with a $10 billion budget for their Inland Rail Project.
Did 240 growers move a motion requesting a CBH board overhaul as labelled in the media?
No the growers did not.
Would grower shareholders prefer CBH to focus on improving rail efficiency and the grain freight path to port, storage and handling, the CBH core business of putting dollars in growers'pockets?
The past two week's media coverage indicates that the sole focus now and into the coming months is pushing the changes to CBH's board structure to be voted on at the annual general meeting next year.
Will the board overhaul improve growers' bottom lines, improve freight efficiencies and the industry's ability to be internationally competitive, reduce the need to constantly repair rural roads and reduce the carbon footprint?
The opportunity to reopen Tier 3 rail lines should be the top priority running up to the State election in March next year.
CBH has lost focus of the core business of the co-operative which is the handling, transporting and storage of the WA harvest.
It is time CBH listened to its grower shareholders and worked co-operatively with the growers at the coal face to ensure a future stainable freight path to port.
This article first appeared on www.farmweekly.com.au
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