Dudley and Karen Leitch.
Dudley and Karen Leitch.

No movement on Killarney Abattoir

IF you’re in the market for sheep, goats or Mexican ceramics, Dudley and Karen Leitch are the people to see.

The former Killarney and Pittsworth abattoir operators plan to hold a massive online auction of 7000 of their Dorper and Damara flock from the traprock country west of Warwick in less than a fortnight, as confirmed by website Auctions Plus.

Not only are the sheep on the market, but a high-class artworks store in Brisbane’s fashionable inner city run by Mrs Leitch is also holding a closing down sale, with everything up for grabs.

The sales come as court cases mount against the Leitch family lodged by unsecured creditors of the shut-down abattoirs.

Their closure on February 8 left 230 people without a job and almost $8 million owed to hundreds of creditors, including scores of family firms across the region.

Mrs Leitch’s store – Artes de Mexico – is located on swanky James Street in downtown Fortitude Valley and specialises in a unique form of handmade ceramics called Uriarte Talavera.

The store’s website has posted details of the closing down sale, with the couple’s interest in all things Mexican understood to stem from time Mr Leitch spent in Mexico developing gold mines, where he made his fortune before turning his hand to agriculture.

Mr Leitch yesterday told the Daily News the closure of the store was unrelated to the money owed by his family to its creditors, stating the sale was “necessary due to the expiry in August of a five-year lease on its premises”.

Details of the 7000-head Landmark online livestock sale on June 22 have been posted on website Auctions Plus, with a mixture of Dorper and Damara-cross sheep offered for sale including stud rams and ewes, ewes with lambs at foot and wether lambs, along with 70 Boer goats.

Mr Leitch told the Daily News last week he continued to run a 60,000-head breeding sheep flock on his traprock properties.

He did not commit yesterday to using the proceeds of the sheep and goat sale to square up with his local creditors, saying the money was needed for “operational” reasons including payment of the 16 employees in his sheep breeding division.

“We still have a considerable wages bill and like any business, we require cash flow,” Mr Leitch said.

“We are selling these sheep as the ewes are the last of our Dorper and Damara crosses – we are moving towards straight Dorper breeders.

“With the lambs, prices are red hot and they are ready to be finished off, so they need either to be in a feedlot for a while or on lush grass, which we don’t have out here in the traprock.”

He also vowed last week to re-open his beef cattle feedlots at Millmerran and Cullendore within the next few months, saying he remained committed to the region.

Dudley and Karen Leitch – who along with sheep farming continue to run a string of other entities in conjunction with their daughter Ramona – face court action over money owed to the Killarney Co-op, Coomrith Cattle Company of Meandarra, Perrett Cattle Company of Injune and the Amber Downs Feedlot at Wandoan.

All parties have lodged claims in the Supreme Court of Queensland against Dudley and Karen Leitch, as directors of the former operating entities of the two abattoirs.

The Killarney Co-op lodged its claim in March but the other two claims were lodged on May 31.

Leon Perrett said yesterday he had been owed more than $61,000 by Mr Leitch for cattle on contracts but fortunately his agents, Watkins and Company, had made good on the amount.

Mr Perrett is now pursuing the court action so his agents will not be out of pocket.

“They were feedlot cattle supplied on contract through my agent,” he said.

“There were around 90 head in total and they went from here at Tunis (the Perrett home property) to the Amber Downs feedlot and were slaughtered at Killarney for a Woolworths contract.

“Another lot of cattle before them was paid for.”

Brad Neven of Watkins and Company said yesterday he had negotiated contracts between a number of his clients and Leitch Pastoral Group and was “just hoping our day in court will go our way”.

Co-claimants in the legal action by Mr Perrett and his wife Margaret are Barry and Helen Rich who operate the Amber Downs Feedlot at Wandoan and who likewise had cattle contracts with Leitch Pastoral Group.

A spokesman for the Killarney Co-op was unavailable yesterday but Mr Leitch told the Daily News a settlement with the Co-op had been agreed on for an undisclosed amount which would be paid out in full shortly.

“We are working through a process here and anyone (creditors) who is reasonable can approach me,” Mr Leitch said.

“A number of people have been understanding of the situation the abattoirs has put my family in and we have in fact reached agreement with some others.”

He declined to comment on the court actions commenced against his family.

Meanwhile, as reported in the Daily News last week, an overseas meat processing operator has inspected the Killarney abattoir and there has also been interest from Queensland and interstate.

Elders agent Dick Allpass said last night a phone hook-up was held in Brisbane yesterday with a potential buyer but nothing was confirmed at this stage.

“We are talking with a number of parties and are considering our next move, that’s about all I can say,” Mr Allpass said.

The operating entities of the Killarney and Pittsworth abattoirs – KA Operations and Tawview respectively – have now been liquidated by business advisers Grant Thornton and their final accounts sent to corporate regulator the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

An ASIC spokesman told the Daily News yesterday they could neither confirm nor deny if they were investigating claims KA Operations and Tawview had traded while insolvent, which is an offence under corporate law, as far back as June last year.

As well as its sheep farming operations, other Leitch Pastoral Group entities which continue to operate include Bernie The Bargain Butcher – whose chain of Brisbane outlets is overseen by Ramona Leitch – Executive Meats and Vegetation Access Management.

As reported last week, the Pittsworth abattoir is understood to have been sold to an undisclosed buyer, with tender documents putting the settlement date at June 28.

Proceeds from the completed sale of either the Pittsworth or the Killarney abattoir would go to secured creditor Rural Bank Limited.

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