Owner-operators avoid major hit amid Eyre closure

Zach RelphCountryman
Back burning along the Eyre Highway, near Norseman, this month.
Camera IconBack burning along the Eyre Highway, near Norseman, this month. Credit: DFES WA

WA owner-operators who transport livestock to the east coast have escaped significant business losses after one of the State’s primary routes into South Australia was closed for almost a fortnight.

Bushfires raging near Norseman and Balladonia left hundreds of holidaymakers and trucks stranded in WA and South Australia, as the Eyre Highway remained closed for 12 days before it was reopened last Friday.

While the Eyre Highway — the only sealed road into South Australia from WA — was closed, eastbound livestock haulage effectively came to a standstill.

However, Karradale Livestock Transport owner Peter Tomeo said he avoided a major business hit.

Karradale Livestock Transport completes multiple journeys into South Australia each week.

At the peak of the Eastern States’ demand for WA-grown sheep last spring, the company was spearheading up to 20 truckloads weekly into South Australia with an average of 600 sheep each.

Mr Tomeo said the company was not impacted, as hot conditions ahead of Eyre Highway’s closure meant there were fewer livestock trucks on the road during the festive period.

“We still have sheep waiting in paddocks waiting to go, but the closure had no major impact to our business,” he said.

“The impact has more been on the farmers who have had to hold on to their livestock for a few more weeks.

“For us, the time was pretty lucky because it was over the Christmas break and because the weather was that hot, we don’t usually transport livestock in those conditions.”

Merredin-based livestock haulers Trans-Plus, which also trucks many WA sheep into South Australia, was also relatively unaffected by the Eyre Highway’s closure.

“We were pretty lucky with it all and stopped about a week before Christmas because it was just getting too hot to be carrying sheep,” Trans-Plus’ Derek Mason said.

There were 409,112 sheep and lambs trucked from WA into South Australia last year.

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