Warwick saleyard users 'left in dark'

10th August 2017 5:00 AM
COMMUNITY CONCERN: Peter Mikkelsen, Bill Pentecost and Laurie Eastwell are some of the long-time sellers concerned for the future of the Warwick Municipal Saleyards. COMMUNITY CONCERN: Peter Mikkelsen, Bill Pentecost and Laurie Eastwell are some of the long-time sellers concerned for the future of the Warwick Municipal Saleyards. Sophie Lester

RUMOURS about the sale of the Warwick Saleyards have fuelled fears of a price hike for vendors at the selling centre.

Southern Downs Regional Council in June began an expressions of interest process for the management of the saleyards.

The possibility of a private company taking over the saleyards has sparked concerns of a steep increase in user fees at the council-owned facility.

Regular attendees at the cattle sale on Tuesday said they would air their worries at a community meeting to be chaired by former mayor Ron Bellingham this morning.

Peter Mikkelsen has bought cattle regularly from the yards for decades.

Mr Mikkelsen said he was concerned an increase in saleyard levies could hit users if the council passed management responsibility to a private company.

"Yard use could be increased for the sellers but who foots the bill for the increased maintenance?” he said.

"When you sell cattle you pay a yard use fee and improvement levy, so if those costs increased, would they be passed on to the producers?

"We want to be sure the council would be leasing it in the best interest of the users, not just to make money.”

Bill Pentecost said it was important the producers who traded at the yards were informed about what was happening.

"We want to know what the council is up to; we don't want any hiding,” Mr Pentecost said.

Selling agent Michael Nowlan said many agents and residents he had spoken to did not support the saleyards changing hands.

"We would like it to stay in (the) council's control because once it leaves the hands of (the) council it does seem like it would be unclear who is actually in control,” Mr Nowlan said.

"From the people I've talked to they're not sure where this is coming from; it's gone through the advisory committee but the public and agents have been left largely in the dark.

"It's a municipal saleyards and it's definitely a money maker for the town so we would like to see it stay in the council's control.

"Warwick is in a great location and it doesn't need to be a big super centre, it just needs to be tidied up a bit.”

Based at Killarney, Mr Nowlan has auctioned livestock at the yards for 12 years.

He said while he and other agents would always be needed to make a return from the facility, workers and vendors may be worse off.

"I guess the staff there could be put off if a private company were to come in,” Mr Nowlan said.

"If user fees go up the yardings could actually decrease because the vendors won't support it.

"Our fees as agents could go up but I suppose they've got to have agents there selling cattle to be making money.”

Mr Nowlan said he and other agents had been called to a meeting at the Warwick council chambers ahead of the community forum at Freestone at 11am.

Members of the Saleyards Advisory Committee Councillor Jo McNally said the council had only gauged what interest there was from private business to manage the saleyards.

Cr McNally assured patrons of the saleyards that concerns about fee increases were not warranted and it was still business as usual at the yards.

"The expressions of interest closed on July 11 and that came from advice about how we would grow the saleyards into the future,” Cr McNally said.

"As it's only an expression of interest it's not like the council has gone out to tender for lease, it is just to explore what market interest there is,” she said.

"We can't disclose who responded due to confidentiality but we did have a few responses.

"Fee increases won't happen; there's worry about the status quo changing but even if the council leased the saleyards to another organi- sation, (the) council would continue to set the fees.”

"That's similar to how WIRAC and all council pools are run - YMCA may choose to charge lower, for example when they have specials but they cannot exceed those fees.”