CORANGAMITE councillors will tonight decide whether to call for expressions of interest from companies interested in building and operating new regional saleyards in the shire.
The move could eventually signal the closure of the Camperdown saleyards, but council officers say a new facility would ensure long-term economic spin-offs for the shire and benefit local farmers.
The plan comes as the council moves to rezone land at the Camperdown site from its existing category of public use to an industrial zone.
It is part of a shire-wide review to create enough industrial land for future development.
Consultants identified the Camperdown saleyards site as a prime candidate for industrial expansion, saying development could start to occur on excess vacant land while the facility continued to operate.
The council received just one objection to the rezoning proposal, saying the closure of the yards would mean a loss of jobs, revenue and social interaction.
The objector also said the rezoning created a loss of trust and confidence in council because residents were being misled about the future of the saleyards.
The council has been told the value of the land at the site was likely to be significant.
In a report to tonight’s council meeting, the shire’s director of sustainable development Ian Gibb says it is an appropriate time to call for expressions of interest, given Warrnambool City Council has gone through a similar procedure for a regional facility to be located within 40 kilometres of the city.
He says the future of the Camperdown yards has been an issue of “considerable debate” for a number of years, but the council has committed to continue operating the facility while it is being supported by buyers and sellers.
About 34,500 head were sold through the facility in the 2012-13 financial year, compared with 41,000 head for the 11 months to the end of May. The shire has budgeted for a throughput of 42,000 animals and a return of $185,000 to council.
“Whilst this represents an increase of around 18 per cent, calf numbers are down by approximately 30 per cent,” Mr Gibb says.
He admits a move to regional saleyards is likely to be controversial, but says benefits include higher prices, more major buyers, better and more efficient facilities.
“The establishment of a regional facility requires a large upfront capital commitment which needs to be supported by high cattle throughput to be economically viable.”
Mr Gibb says if the council agrees to go ahead and call for expressions of interest, the next step will involve an assessment of “commercial considerations, transitional arrangements, ongoing management arrangements and the potential for council to have an equity share in any new facility”.
The council meeting will be held from 7pm today at Camperdown’s Killara Centre.