MOYNE Shire Council has irked Warrnambool City Council by deciding to start its own search for a new regional livestock selling centre.
As city leaders wade through a second attempt to find a private operator interested in building and running a replacement for the 40-year-old Warrnambool municipal saleyards, neighbouring leaders in Moyne have run out of patience.
The stance reveals a deep rift in what was once a joint push by the councils to resolve the contentious issue simmering for more than four years.
“We’ve been left in the dark by the city council and there is increasing pressure from our ratepayers who want some action on the issue,” Moyne’s mayor James Purcell told The Standard.
“We thought it’s time to step up to the mark.
“The saleyards issue is a priority — an essential service for our shire which would benefit all members of the community, not just farmers.”
Cr Purcell said the seven Moyne councillors decided unanimously at a workshop meeting last week to look at calling for expressions of interest from the private sector to establish a regional livestock exchange somewhere in the municipality.
He ruled out shire investment in what is likely to be a $12 million-plus project.
It comes only two months after the city started a new call for expressions of interest for a new selling facility within 40 kilometres of the city boundary — double the distance stipulated in a previous failed attempt to find a suitable operator.
The 40km boundary means a potential new saleyards would be in Moyne or Corangamite shires.
Applications for Warrnambool’s new expressions of interest call close next Friday.
City mayor Michael Neoh was annoyed by Moyne’s stance.
“I’m miffed and quite surprised,” he said.
“Warrnambool City Council has the trump card in timing and selection.
“I wouldn’t imagine any proponent would consider investing while Warrnambool’s facility was still operating.
“Our council is on the front foot.
“Warrnambool’s saleyards are controlled and owned by the city council — we don’t tell Moyne council how to run its facilities.”
Cr Neoh said it was inappropriate to divulge to Moyne specific details of the expressions of interest process because of commercial confidentiality rules and he would not speculate on when the issue would come back to open council.
“However there is a motion on our books for a new regional saleyards established in the medium term and I would expect that target to be met,” he said.
“Our saleyards in Caramut Road is an ageing facility and livestock sales have been declining.”