Council plan to keep Wangaratta saleyards at arm’s length

SUPPORT: Wangaratta deputy mayor Harvey Benton was in favour of a new council proposal for the saleyards to be governed by a skills-based board.

SUPPORT: Wangaratta deputy mayor Harvey Benton was in favour of a new council proposal for the saleyards to be governed by a skills-based board.

A new board for the Wangaratta Saleyards has been proposed by the council in effort to get management of the facility out of limbo.

The council proposal last year for a co-operative, where producers and agents would purchase shares, proved unpopular with both stakeholders and incoming councillors.

But management did not feel qualified to run the saleyards so it has now suggested a compromised solution to ensure the facility stays council-owned, but run by stakeholders.

Wangaratta chief executive Brendan McGrath recommended what he called an “arm’s length entity”.

“Council would hold all of the shares and it would be governed by a skills-based board,” he said.

“This is different to an advisory committee or a committee of management.

“The saleyards would operate as a separate business with a separate board, but the business would remain council-owned.

“This structure would allow more flexibility and the application of commercial business thinking, instead of the saleyards operating under the bureaucratic rules it currently does.”

Livestock agents were briefed on the proposal this week before it goes before Tuesday’s council meeting.

Deputy mayor Harvey Benton will exclude himself from discussions at the meeting because he has a conflict of interest with his professional connection to the saleyards.

But he said he supported the idea of a new board in theory and looked forward to seeing more details.

“Council will still own it, we don’t need to seek extra funding to keep it going,” Cr Benton said.

Council will still own it, we don’t need to seek extra funding to keep it going. - Wangaratta deputy mayor Harvey Benton

“The community owns it, we want the majority of the community to benefit.”

One of the biggest worries of a co-operative was the unknown return producers and agents would receive for buying shares – Mr Benton said the new proposal took away that uncertainty.

If passed by councillors, the saleyards business would be staffed by representatives from the community, appointed by the council.

Cr Benton said he would like to see people with all kinds of expertise hired, including livestock agents and business people who specialised in marketing and promotion.

He said one of saleyards users’ major frustrations was the lack of promotion to draw people to what they believed were quality cattle sales in Wangaratta.

Councillors will vote at Tuesday’s meeting over putting the proposal out for public comment before making a final decision.

Mr McGrath said feedback was welcomed and would be taken into account when creating the new saleyards entity.

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