Income drop stalls saleyards upgrade

PLANNED improvement works at Warrnambool’s livestock selling centre have been delayed because of a $100,000 shortfall in throughput and fees.

A financial performance presented to councillors Monday night shows the income below budget for the first six months of the financial year.

“Less throughput means less income,” corporate strategies director Kevin Leddin said.

“We budgeted for 90,000 head of cattle — there were 78,000  and we are tracking below last year.”

Warrnambool City mayor Michael Neoh said the income had been about 20 to 25 per cent below the normal $400,000 figure.

The budget impact has been compensated on the balance sheet by a delay in capital works for modernisation of  livestock pens.

However, it will not affect a new $85,000 lighting project around the perimeter of the yards.

Budget shortfalls of $100,000 were also recorded in parking fees income and grants commission allocations while after-kindergarten care was down by $70,000.

Less money will be put into the parking reserve fund to compensate and the children’s program will be reviewed.

Mr Leddin said the overall six-month budget variance of $193,100 was only 0.2 of one per cent of the $89 million total budget.

The city is seeking a new base and new operators for the saleyards through expressions of interest from private entities after deciding controversially about two years ago to eventually relinquish control and operation of the enterprise within the next decade.

Moyne Shire Council is also testing the market and is undertaking its own unofficial search for private operators to run a saleyards enterprise within the municipality.

The current saleyards on Caramut Road were built in the early 1970s and still return an operating surplus of about $300,000 annually.

Stock agents argue it should continue as a municipal operation on the site because of its economic importance to the region.

They argue that the drop in budgeted throughput was misleading because figures were based on peak turnover when 110,000 animals were sold during a drought year.

Cr Peter Hulin has called for a public meeting to discuss the proposed relocation of the yards and ramifications.

“So many businesses would be affected,” he said.

“We should have a public meeting to discuss what is involved.”

When the council first moved to consider handing over the saleyards business for a private operator to run outside the city it sparked protests and a public meeting  attended by more than 300 people.

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