Saleyards scrapped

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Saleyards scrapped

Wattle Range Council staff have been directed to prepare a report on the possible demolition and removal of all buildings and associated infrastructure from the Millicent Saleyards with the exception of the truck wash.

The direction followed a tense debate at the monthly council meeting in Millicent on Tuesday night.

A motion to retain the Millicent saleyards as a stock transit facility was defeated by a 4/5 vote.

It was supported by Councillors Dennis Muhovics, Deb Agnew, Sharon Cox and Richard Cassidy but opposed by councillors David Walshaw, Dale Price, John Drew, Peter Dunnicliff and Chris Brodie.

Cr Emma Castine submitted an apology for her non-attendance at the meeting while Mayor Des Noll was not required to vote.

A subsequent motion to cease all stock transfers and commission various closure-related staff reports was passed 5/4 with the same voting pattern as before.

Council also decided to retain the truck wash for a further 12 months.

Cattle sales ceased last June and there has since been relatively little use by local graziers of the yards as a stock transit facility for sheep and cattle.

Council debated the matter for almost an hour including a 20-minute portion when the talks were confidential.

At the conclusion of the voting on the two motions, Mayor Noll expressed his regret the council chief executive Ben Gower had been unfairly criticised by sections of the wider community for his role in saleyards management.

The saleyards issue had been listed on the agenda on Tuesday as a matter arising from the previous week’s meeting of the Audit and Finance sub-committee.

It had recommended the stock transit facility be closed due to financial and other risks and the relative lack of use.

Before debate on the sub-committee report began, Mayor Noll announced that Mr Gower had some information which he wanted to share with councillors on a commercial-in-confidence basis.

The meeting voted to close the meeting in line with Section 90 of the Local Government Act.

When it resumed, Cr Muhovics moved that council continue to operate the stock transfer facility at no cost to graziers and the infrastructure upgrades such as the double loading ramp be installed.

Cr Muhovics also wanted the truck wash to continue and said these facilities and transit yards would benefit small local producers.

“Wattle Range Council gets $27m in rate money each year and we are a service provider,” Cr Muhovics said.

Cr Cox said the transit yards were still needed by smaller farmers and she was honouring her election commitment.

Cr Dunnicliff said council had certain environmental and safety responsibilities and he regarded the saleyards as a “money pit”.

He said the council faced expensive repairs which were needed to the Millicent Swimming Lake.

According to Cr Drew, local graziers were voting with their feet as only 18 cattle and 300 sheep had transited through the yards in the past three months.

“I question whether we should be making business decisions with our hearts,” Cr Drew said.

Cr Walshaw said reports had stated the saleyards exposed the council to financial and reputational risks.

“There are significant fixed overheads and we should get ourselves out of it,” Cr Walshaw said.

Cr Agnew said the long-running debates about the future of the saleyards had been tiring.

“The saleyards are the last piece of infrastructure we provide for the rural community,” Cr Agnew said.

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