CONCERNS have been raised over whether a company seeking to take over management of Warrnambool’s municipal saleyards breached commercial confidentiality by divulging details of discussions with the city council.
City councillor Peter Hulin has called for negotiations to be abandoned and stock agents are looking at the legal implications.
Regional Intrastructure Pty Ltd (RIPL) managing director Garry Edwards revealed to The Standard last week it had suggested July 1 to step in as new manager of the yards and engage with stakeholders before building elsewhere.
RIPL was selected by council earlier this year as the preferred company to build and operate a new regional livestock selling centre outside the city within 40 kilometres of the municipal boundary.
There have been several confidential meetings between the company and council representatives, but according to mayor Michael Neoh no firm decision has been reached.
The council has faced successive controversies since indicating about six years ago it wanted to phase out running municipal saleyards and was keen to find a suitable private operator.
For the second time in less than a month city councillors will a debate a notice of motion from Cr Hulin on the issue. On March 17 his call for a public meeting to explain council decisions on the saleyards’ future was defeated on the mayor’s casting vote.
He informed colleagues in committee on Monday night he would put a three-part motion to the April 7 open meeting (a) that the council determine not to proceed with any further negotiations with RIPL because of recent public comments by Mr Edwards which breached commercial in-confidence; (b) that the council decide to continue managing and operating the Caramut Road saleyards for a further four financial years; (c) the city seek a meeting with Moyne Shire Council to discuss long-term planning and options for a regional livestock exchange.
Yesterday, Cr Hulin said there must be a determination on whether Mr Edwards had breached confidentiality.
“There is growing community concern about the saleyards’ future,” he said.
“We have an operation making money and are hell-bent on closing it. I’m not going to be a rubber-stamper.”
Warrnambool Stock Agents Association member Gerald Madden said the group was concerned about possible breaches of confidentiality by RIPL.
The association is also looking at broader legal aspects of the council’s decisions to close the yards.
Mr Madden said members were confident of being able to stage a public meeting on the issue and hope to have it before mid-May.