A Mudgee dairy farmer helped provoke reaction to the Herd of Hope bid to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge by urging radio legend John Laws to take up the cause.
Murray Balfour contacted Laws’ 2SM show urging the “golden tonsils” to get behind the charity’s bid to cross the bridge to raise awareness for organ donation.
When Mr Balfour told Laws the Roads Minister would not approve the crossing even though a similar cattle crossing was done in 1999, Laws replied “that’s a bit hot”.
Laws staff were later contacted by the office of the Sydney CBD co-ordinator general Marg Prendergast who said she could not approve the crossing for several reasons, and the law had changed since the last cattle crossing in 1999.
Ms Prendergast said she could not close part of the bridge and that the whole bridge would have to be closed for five to six hours for the event to go ahead.
She accused the Herd of Hope organisers of putting the cart before the horse and announcing the crossing before they had approval. She claimed the organisers already knew they couldn’t cross the bridge, Laws related to his listeners on his radio program.
She said the organisers had been offered six alternative routes including moving the cattle down Macquarie St from Hyde Park to the Sydney Opera House.
Laws said he’d been informed the Harbour Bridge had only been closed 47 times since 1932.
Mr Balfour said earlier: “if they can close the Bridge for a breakfast and for a half-marathon, why can’t they do it for charity that’s raising awareness for organ donation?”.
Laws seemed to suggest the Macquarie st option would be the best for Herd of Hope – but organisers say the end of the street is not suitable for taking cattle down because of safety and animal welfare concerns.
Herd of Hope organiser Megan McLoughlin said: “Macquarie Street is not a route we can consider. Public safety and animal welfare are paramount.”
“The descent to the Opera House is too steep for a cloven hoofed animal, which can’t grip on a bitumen surface.
“Also, that route would require more than three kilometres of temporary cattle yards, but the Bridge is an enclosed route.
“We have been offered six potential routes, but those options haven’t been signed off on, or negotiated with the Herd of Hope.
“We are still considering the other routes and we want to work with the RTA.
“In true Aussie spirit, we won’t give up. We are receiving thousands of letters of support, from Australia and around the world now.”
Ms McLoughlin denied she knew the bridge crossing was never a possibility for Herd of Hope.
“It appears to be a remarkable misunderstanding. The first we were told it couldn’t go ahead was a couple of weeks ago. We first started planning the event 18 moths ago I good faith, with the understanding we could use the Bridge as a stock route. Due to our huge public support, a planning meeting was organised with the RTA, where we discussed the six alternative routes, several of which including Macquarie st aren’t suitable due to public safety and animal welfare concerns.
“We (Herd of Hope organisers) sent an email to those in the meeting stating that we would need to view all routes before one was selected. We haven’t given up on the Bridge. This is an opportunity for government to show its support for rural people.”