The Warrnambool saleyards are past their use-by date and a former mayor and Warrnambool ratepayer warns they will be an ongoing financial "black hole".
Former Corangamite shire mayor Chris O'Connor said in a letter to The Standard the Warrnambool saleyards were tired, unsafe, raised animal welfare issues and should be sold off.
His letter came as the yards were named in the nation's top-10 selling centres in 2020 after a strong year.
Mr O'Connor said a decision to keep the yards running risked the Warrnambool council facing a financial black hole in terms of ongoing maintenance.
"The council faces an enormous investment gulf over coming years," he said.
"The need for the council to run the yards is well and truly gone.
"It's an affront to farmers to say they only come in and do their essential shopping on sale days and then go back to the farm for the week.
"There will be no business activity lost. Farmers will still need to buy what they need, whether that's a tractor or anything else."
Mr O'Connor said the point of saleyards was to bring buyers together to achieve the best possible prices for farmers.
"Farmers, to some degree, are currently missing out," he said.
Questions about the ongoing viability of the South West Livestock Exchange became an issue again after the collapse of a concrete walkway during a sale in October last year.
That led to former city council chief executive officer Bruce Anson calling for the yards to be sold off, which could provide a windfall of $10 million for the city.
It's expected to cost more than $500,000 to repair the concrete walkways and the collapse has triggered a review of the saleyards, which were built in 1970.
Inspections are to be completed by the end of January and the yards are currently operating under an interim arrangement with WorkSafe.
The report is expected to be reviewed by Warrnambool councillors before a decision is made on the long-term future of the yards.
Mr O'Connor said the saleyards should be sold off, releasing money for the Warrnambool council.
He said that would also provide opportunities for the development of a new precinct, which would create jobs.
"It is incumbent on the current council to debunk the commonly repeated belief that saleyards are important infrastructure and that they are profitable," Mr O'Connor said.
"Depreciation, holding costs and lost opportunity costs are enormous, not to mention the time officers, councillors and consultants have devoted to a facility. Less than three per cent of the cattle numbers come from within the municipality so what is in it for ratepayers?
"The Warrnambool yards are a health and safety risk, an animal welfare risk, a financial risk and there is a perfectly good selling centre at Mortlake."
Mr O'Connor foreshadowed the Caramut Road site would be keenly sought after by investors and developers.
"That could provide an influx of jobs and opportunity for Warrnambool," he said.
"Warrnambool city's budget is under stress maintaining existing facilities and services as well as providing for a growing population with high expectations.
"Council could use the estimated $7 million to $10 million to pay down debt and improve other assets.
"Council needs to treat ratepayers with respect, explain the risks and provide the facts about the potential losses, the animal welfare issues and the depth of the impending investment gulf.
"An informed community will support council and together they can make the correct call," he said.
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