CORANGAMITE Shire councillors officially made their move to secure a regional livestock selling centre within shire boundaries last night, voting unanimously to call for expressions of interest from potential operators.
But councillors again made it very clear its Camperdown selling centre would not be closed unless there was a significant benefit to the shire.
In speaking for the motion, Cr Geoff Smith said the era of council-owned saleyards was coming to an end.
“It’s been happening across Australia,” he said.
Cr Smith said calling for an expression of interest didn’t cement the shire into anything and was simply a way of getting on the front foot.
“Local agents and producers support our position of having this facility built within the shire,” Cr Smith said. “A modern facility would address some of the major issues we face with our current yards like occupational health and safety and animal welfare.
“It’s going to be a long, and probably controversial process, but it’s something we need to do. We need to look to the future.”
Cr Smith said an earlier vote to request land at the Camperdown yards be re-zoned had nothing to do with the move to a regional centre, rather it was about planning for the future.
“If that was anyway linked to speeding up the closure of the Camperdown saleyards, there is no way I would support it,” he said.
Mayor Chris O’Connor said council wasn’t prepared to “let go” of the Camperdown yards unless there was a good outcome for the shire.
“We have a substantial investment at the Camperdown yards, but they are ageing,” Cr O’Connor said.
“This is a way for us to see if there is potential for private investment to come and make a sustainable industry.
“We have an obligation to ensure our primary producers can get the most out of the market. That’s how they make their living.”
Council officers said it was entirely appropriate to call for expressions of interest, given Warrnambool City had done the same.
Cr Peter Harkin said he was pleased council had been transparent in its position on the yards.
“This gets us on the front foot,” he said.
“If anything happens, we are right there, ready to go.”