Spotlight on Wangaratta saleyards

FORMER Wangaratta deputy mayor Paul O’Brien has re-entered the fray on the battle for the multi-million dollar saleyards upgrade he fears will be dumped by the city’s administrators.

The saleyards improvements were one of the big-ticket items approved by council before being dismissed last September.

But chief administrator Ailsa Fox has raised the prospect of fees almost doubling for users to cover loan repayments on the $1.7 million loan earmarked to bankroll stage one improvements.

Mrs Fox claimed yarding fees could climb to $18 and also expressed fears producers could take their cattle to the privately owned North Barnawartha saleyards due to open in January.

Mr O’Brien is circulating an open letter to council administrators, state member for Murray Valley Tim McCurdy, federal member for Indi Cathy McGowan, agents, producers and Victorian Farmers Federation.

The yards host 65 sales annually, with up to 50,000 cattle traded each year, but they need upgrading with soft floorings and roofing to combat extreme temperatures.

“Without modernisation Wangaratta saleyards will close over time,” Mr O’Brien said.

“As a result, 100 jobs and $10 million in economic benefit to the Rural City of Wangaratta will be lost.

“The flexibility and advantages of a local market will also be lost.

“My personal request is for the bull-dust, blame games and posturing to stop.

“We need to get on with the modernisation of the saleyards and be open and transparent with information.”

Mr O’Brien hoped Mr McCurdy could secure state government money that had already been forthcoming for saleyards at Yea, which hosted less than 20 sales a year.

“They received a $400,000 grant on a $1.3 million upgrade,” he said.

“Wangaratta Council funds many tourism and festival events, but these do not make a profit for council.

“Why do administrators believe modernisation of saleyards need to be self funding?”

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