WARRNAMBOOL stock agents fear the Warrnambool saleyards will be taken over by a private operator in four months.
Warrnambool Stock Agents Association spokesman Dan Carey said there was a rumour circulating that Warrnambool City Council’s (WCC) preferred party to build and operate a new saleyards, Regional Infrastructure Pty Ltd (RIPL), was going to manage the existing facility from July 1.
Mr Carey said the agents were concerned about the lack of information from council about its plans.
“We do not know whether we will have a place to sell from after July 1,” he said.
Their’ alarm follows strong opposition from the agents and other sections of the community, claiming Warrnambool’s economy will suffer when the saleyards move from the city.
WCC has given RIPL approval to establish the new saleyards up to 40 kilometres away from Warrnambool’s municipal boundaries.
WCC’s corporate strategies director Kevin Leddin did not confirm the rumour but said that where RIPL had undertaken similar ventures elsewhere “its preference was to operate the existing facility as early as possible”.
Mr Leddin said the next steps in the council’s plan for RIPL to build and operate new saleyards was to “discuss the terms and conditions of RIPL’s proposal”.
RIPL could not be contacted by The Standard yesterday.
But WIN News reported yesterday that RIPL expected it would be three years before any new saleyards were operating.
Mr Carey said stock agents were being forced to deal with speculation because there had been no recent discussions with WCC about the saleyards’ future.
He asked the council to keep the agents and other stakeholders in the saleyards, such as stock buyers, farmers and livestock carriers, informed about its intentions for the saleyards.
The council needed to be more transparent about its intentions for the saleyards, with its behaviour so far raising the question of whether it had “a hidden agenda”, Mr Carey said.
Mr Carey said the agents were also concerned that Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh described the saleyards as an ageing facility when it operated efficiently.
About 120 people were employed to work at the Wednesday markets at the saleyards, comprising a significant part of Warrnambool’s economy, he said.
Mr Carey said regular maintenance was done and a double-deck loading ramp recently installed, refuting Cr Neoh’s claim the saleyards were ageing.