FRESH controversy is ready to erupt over Warrnambool City Council’s decision to announce its preferred company to establish a new livestock saleyards.
The council yesterday announced it had selected Regional Infrastructure Proprietary Limited (RIPL) as its preferred proponent to build the new saleyards within 40 kilometres of Warrnambool’s municipal boundary.
The announcement provoked a strong reaction from stock agents and farmers, who are again forming up to oppose a relocation.
They said a relocation would harm regional livestock producers and Warrnambool’s economy.
But mayor Michael Neoh said the expansion of Warrnambool’s residential and industrial areas meant the saleyards could not develop to meet changing trends in the livestock market.
“It needs to be relocated to ensure its long-term future,” Cr Neoh said.
The council said RIPL was chosen from two responses to an expression of interest process in relocating and operating the saleyards.
The council’s announcement raised the ire of stock agents not only for its content but also for the manner in which it was released.
Dan Carey, the Warrnambool Stock Agents Association’s representative on the city’s saleyards advisory committee, said the council had been “rude” by not advising the committee of its decision to select RIPL before releasing the news to the media.
“They are not treating the stakeholders (in the saleyards) with respect,” he said.
Mr Carey, a stock agent with Brian O’Halloran and Co, said council’s plan to relocate the saleyards was “out of focus with the public”.
Mr Carey said the stock agents would consider calling a public meeting to show the council the widespread public opposition to taking the saleyards away from Warrnambool.
Strong public opposition in 2008 led council to drop plans to attract commercial interests to build a new saleyards.
Mr Carey said he believed RIPL would build any new saleyards at Mortlake, meaning Warrnambool businesses would miss out on the economic spin-offs from livestock producers, transport operators and others.
He said there was no need to relocate the saleyards because they were one of the most up-to-date and efficient saleyards in Victoria, generating income for the council.
Purnim cattle producer Roger Learmonth said he believed the saleyards should stay where they were.
Mr Learmonth said there was plenty of room at the present yards for expansion.