Don’t sell saleyards, say farmers

WANGARATTA District Livestock Producers Group has urged Wangaratta Council to immediately dump plans to seek a buyer for the city’s saleyards.

The farmer group has again met council chief executive officer Brendan McGrath and expressed concerns with a potential sale of the yards to Regional Infrastructrue which is building the $20 million saleyards at Barnawartha.

Regional Infrastructure this week confirmed its intention to investigate the purchase of the Wangaratta yards following the council’s recent decision to embark on an expressions of interest process for a potential buyer or lessees of the yards.

The talks with Mr McGrath centred on cost modelling for the saleyards based on various possible future scenarios.

Group spokesman Greg Mirabella said farmers were bracing for an increase in the cost of selling cattle at Wangaratta if the proposed $3.6 million upgrade went ahead.

But it would still be cheaper than Barnawartha.

“Whichever way you examine it, the producers believe the extra cost per head through the yards would likely be in the order of around $7 more than currently, in order to support the capital cost of works,” Mr Mirabella said.

“But even at this level, we believe per head cost through the Wangaratta saleyards will be significantly below Barnawartha.

“We believe there is a very low risk of volumes at Wangaratta falling significantly.

“In fact, we think they are likely to improve somewhat, and so we believe the council should get on with the job, which they seem to be doing.”

Mr Mirabella said Regional Infrastructure was the only likely buyer for the Wangaratta saleyards.

“We are businessmen and we are certainly not taking a position against private equity, but the situation here in Wangaratta is that our farmers and our community will be better off if our yards stay in public ownership,” he said.

“And as it happens, it will also likely be beneficial for the farming community throughout the wider North East if a viable competitor remains.

“We believe any sale will result in closure.”