Taskforce Starlight to Help Combat Northern Territory Stock Theft

Stock theft has long been an issue in the Northern Territory (NT). In 2016, traditional owner Bill Harney spoke about the problem that theft was for him through his advisor Mick Pierce. Harney ran cattle on the Menngen Aboriginal Land Trust south-west of Katherine.

He was selling most of his herd because he felt it was a waste of effort keeping the cattle when criminals were stealing so many of them. At the time, NT police were investigating the theft of around 800 cattle in the area.

In 2019, the situation was just as bad. NT station owners were losing up to 10 animals every week as a result of theft. The thefts were attracting losses of thousands of dollars for the station owners. They called for the return of the stock squad, which last existed over a decade earlier.

Key points
  • Stock theft in the Northern Territory costs station owners thousands of dollars each year.
  • Taskforce Starlight has been set up to improve the detection and reporting of stock theft.
  • Depending on the success of Taskforce Starlight, a dedicated Northern Territory stock squad may be created.

Entegra Dairy Shed

Creation of Taskforce Starlight

Now, the formation of a new stock squad is potentially a step closer, thanks to the creation of Taskforce Starlight. The task force is a joint effort between the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (DITT) Livestock Biosecurity, the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA), and Northern Territory Police.

The make-up of the task force to reduce stock theft in the NT is varied. The team consists of veterinary officers, police officers, and livestock biosecurity officers. The members will have bases in Katherine, Darwin, Adelaide River, Alice Springs, and Tennant Creek.

The aim of the task force is to solve stock-related crimes, spread awareness of the issue, and hold action days in the NT. It will also look at the Livestock Act with a view to revising it to eliminate legislative gaps.

Using Taskforce Starlight to combat stock theft in the Northern Territory

The NTCA announced the formation of Taskforce Starlight, and Acting CEO Romy Carey spoke about how excited the organisation is. She spoke about how pastoralists in NT are subjected to a lot of stock-related crime. This crime ranges from one or two animals being stolen to large-scale organised theft.

It seems as though Mrs. Carey is right to welcome the arrival of Taskforce Starlight. The new collaborative effort means that the eight appointed NT police will have enhanced investigation powers under the Livestock Act.

Nicole Manison, the Minister responsible for Police, Fire and Emergency Services, and Agribusiness, joined the NTCA in welcoming the benefits of Taskforce Starlight. She said;

“The cattle industry is a big part of our economy, and we will continue to do everything we can to support it.”

The taskforce is initially in place for 12 months with the hope that it will shine a light on the murky world of stock theft crime. Its work will include making sure that station owners report stock thefts. This is something that does not always happen right now.

Taskforce Starlight is not a dedicated stock squad. However, it does have the power to make a significant impact on stock theft in NT. The fact that the team consists of various individuals with different skill sets and knowledge is an advantage. It means that the task force should be able to identify legislative and investigation gaps in order to improve conviction rates and industry compliance.

If the task force is as successful as stakeholders expect it to be, there is likely to be justification for taking its work forward. Authorities will collect data over the 12 month period. If this data suggests that the task force’s work has made a significant impact, a dedicated stock squad could be on the cards for the immediate future.

Northern Australia Development

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