Dear valued subscriber,
Warrnambool City Council this week plunged the saleyards' future into doubt with a dramatic shift.
As we reported on Friday, the council's chief executive officer wrote to stock agents in May asking them to sign up to five-year commitments at the yards in return for future developments to improve the facility.
A draft of the city's strategic council plan released with the draft budget said the council would upgrade the saleyards and earmarked considerable funds.
But then when the plan and budget were adopted, the council's commitment was less concrete despite calling for tenders.
So on Monday night when councillors voted to not award a tender and instead embark on community consultation about the yards' future, agents were shocked. Should the consultation have been done before the vote?
Why did things change so quickly?
Hundreds of pages of documents were publicly released with a report to councillors on Monday and they revealed sections of the 52-year-old yards failed most Australian standards. They also revealed the council had legal responsibilities associated with the yards' safety.
The council has two options, spend more than $5 million that could easily double to $10 million on upgrading the yards or close them. But the decision has significant ramifications, economic and social benefits from farmers when coming to the yards and financial implications for the council and the city's future.
Farmers and agents are keen to fight to keep the yards open. But given the state of the yards, by not awarding a tender for upgrades, have councillors already sealed the facility's fate?
Farmers and agents convinced the council eight years ago to keep the yards open despite the threat of private competition. With 11 different agents now selling at the privately-run centre at Mortlake and Midfield Meat buying stock direct from farmers, the landscape is different, agents and farmers have options.
Watch this space.
Councillors had a busy night on Monday, voting to seek a business case for building a new art gallery at Cannon Hill. Officers had recommended councillors back a business case for the existing site. It has sparked from letter writers to The Standard.
Councillors, despite some campaigning on removing pedestrian crossings from city roundabouts, voted to keep them.
Tower Hill's Richard Crawley, above, featured in a documentary that premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival on Friday night.
Don't forget to check out some of the other stories that made headlines this week, below.
Until next week,
Greg Best, editor, The Standard
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.