Saleyards issue splits council as mayor decides vote

A CLEAR split has emerged between city councillors over the future of the municipal saleyards with concerns raised over the move towards a regional livestock exchange.

More than 70 people attended last night’s meeting with some audience members venting their frustrations directly at councillors following discussion over the proposed move away from the existing Caramut Road site.

It was the largest public gathering over the issue since an acrimonious 2010 meeting at the Warrnambool Entertainment Centre, when more than 500 people witnessed the city council put a proposed shift of the livestock exchange to Garvoc on the backburner.

Last night Cr Peter Hulin put forward a notice of motion calling for council to cease negotiations with Regional Infrastructure Proprietary Limited (RIPL), resulting in a 3-3 deadlocked vote.

Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh used his casting vote against the notice of motion.

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.

Cr Hulin said the fact the council was contemplating the closure of the Caramut Road site showed a lack of business judgement and believed any such move would create an economic vacuum.

His sentiments were echoed by ally Cr Brian Kelson.

“It’s clear the council are not listening to the people of Warrnambool,” Cr Hulin said last night.

“I find it disturbing, as anyone who attended the meeting would, that the councillors in favour of closing the saleyards did not put forward any credible reason why the place needs to be closed.

“When you consider the saleyards makes $300,000 a year, maybe $600,000 or $650,000 in a good year, while infrastructure like AquaZone (swimming pool) makes a major loss, Flagstaff Hill makes a loss — it just doesn’t add up.”

Cr Neoh said a majority of councillors would have the final say on the fate of the Caramut Road site but reassured the audience that the process had not reached that stage.

He said the council had to sort through the various applicants and make a rational choice in the best interests of the city.

“The majority of councillors will sign off on this decision,” Cr Neoh said. “Not just the chief executive, not just the mayor but the majority of councillors as part of the democratic process.”

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