THE heat has been turned up on member for Murray Valley Tim McCurdy to secure funding for the Wangaratta saleyards upgrade.
Wangaratta Council has finally committed to the saleyards redevelopment, but on the proviso the tenders fall within the allocated budget of $3.4 million and a minimum funding commitment is forthcoming from government or other sources of $500,000.
Mr McCurdy is part of the state government and the most likely source to secure the funding before the November election.
The Coalition honoured a $400,000 funding commitment to a $1 million saleyards upgrade at Yea in the lead-up to the 2011 state poll and the council will also approach Labor about a funding pledge.
Mr McCurdy welcomed the council’s commitment to the project and said he would begin lobbying colleagues for support.
“I’ve always said I would be happy to go into bat if it was a priority of theirs,” he said.
EDITORIAL: Much is to be determined
Wangaratta chief executive officer Brendan McGrath has also been authorised to seek expressions of interest for the purchase or lease of the saleyards.
Administrators were grilled by gallery members, including Wangaratta District Livestock Producers Group member Greg Mirabella.
“If the council calls for expressions for sale and an expression of interest is forthcoming with a significant cheque attached to it, will you sell?” he asked.
“It does not make sense to go to market calling for expressions of interest for something you may or may not be prepared to sell.
“You either want to sell or you don’t.”
In response, chief administrator Ailsa Fox said: “It is not a question I can answer at this stage.
“We haven’t made any decisions to sell the saleyards. All we are doing is asking for expressions of interest.”
Mrs Fox also had to fend off a conflict of interest suggestion with Mr McCurdy seeking funding.
Mr McCurdy’s National Party colleague Jeanette Powell sacked the former council and helped put together the panel of administrators.
In response, Mrs Fox said: “I think that is drawing a long bow.”
Former councillor Paul O’Brien also raised concerns about upgrading the yards and then selling them.
The administrators confirmed that in the event of a sale or lease it would be stipulated that the saleyards remained as an ongoing commercial operation.