Geelong Saleyards set to close
THE Geelong Saleyards will permanently close to the sale of sheep and cattle by 31 August 2017.
The decision was made at a special meeting of the City of Greater Geelong Council on 2 August.
The City’s Administrators also resolved to engage with operators of Geelong’s poultry sales to determine the future of sales at the site, and with representatives of the livestock transport industry to determine the future of the facility’s truck wash.
The Administrators also resolved to engage with the community to develop a strategy that recognises the history of the 150-year-old Geelong Saleyards, and will develop a precinct plan for the saleyards’ Weddell Rd site that incorporates public space.
In August 2016 the City closed the Geelong Saleyards for sheep and cattle sales due to significant Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) issues.
Works commenced in November to enable safe operations of sheep sales at the site.
In December the Administrators resolved to defer a decision on costly cattle yard repair works, and future operations at the Geelong Saleyards, until the completion of an independent local stock market analysis, a full costing of OH&S works on the cattle yards and a regional agribusiness strategy.
Independent local stock market analysis
In May this year the City’s Administrators formally noted the independent Saleyards Livestock Market Analysis Report.
The report highlights that the saleyards model in Geelong is “not the solution to the challenge of providing a livestock exchange for the demographic existing now and into the future”.
The report notes a 70% decline in cattle numbers through the Geelong Saleyards from 2000 to 2016.
The report is available at www.geelongaustralia.com.au/saleyards
Full costing of OH&S works on the cattle yards
The financial performance of the Geelong Saleyards during the past 10 years has declined, with the last two years resulting in losses of more than $200,000 per annum.
An independent report from Zinc Cost Management estimates that works to repair the cattle yards to an acceptable standard (without a roof) is $2,895,000.
Regional agribusiness strategy
A Sustainable Agribusiness Strategy for the G21 Region, which was earlier endorsed by the Administrators furing the 2 August 2017 special meeting of Council, noted that of the G21 region’s livestock share, more than three quarters of the livestock comes from outside Greater Geelong’s municipal boundary.
City of Greater Geelong Administrator Chair Dr Kathy Alexander said reports on the operation and potential closure of the Geelong Saleyards had been brought before Council since 1998 with a number of recommendations to close the facility, yet a final decision had never been made.
“In December my fellow Administrators and I asked that the City prepare and present us with vital information on local livestock trends, a strategy for the region’s agribusiness industry and a full costing of cattle yard works to inform a final decision on the future of the facility," Dr Alexander said.
“During the last eight months we’ve been committed to ensuring appropriate and extensive stakeholder engagement on this issue, with a 1400-person survey, a workshop, consultation through the development of the Sustainable Agribusiness Strategy for the G21 Region and through the establishment of a Geelong Saleyards Advisory Committee.
“We also worked with buyers, sellers, agents and transport operators on interim support measures for small-lot farmers through the construction of a temporary holding hub for the transport of cattle to the Ballarat Saleyards. This transport hub was never utilised.
“In making tonight’s decision to permanently close the Geelong Saleyards we’ve taken into account an extensive amount of information and community feedback, including written notification from two selling agents confirming they would not have provided a service if the Geelong Saleyards had reopened for cattle sales, due to the cost of business.
“The independent local stock market analysis identified a number of alternative saleyards options to be considered, including Colac as a regional livestock facility.
“The G21 Regional Growth Plan also identified Colac as the preferred livestock facility for the region and at the request of the G21 board the City and Colac Otway Shire engaged independent consultant Mecardo to report on the Colac Regional Saleyards as an option should the Geelong Saleyards close.
“This report notes that a transition of livestock sales to Colac could be accommodated by an additional fortnightly Monday sale and minor modifications to the Colac site.
“We’ll continue to work with all stakeholders, including our livestock farmers and Colac Otway Shire, to ensure a smooth transition of sales."
Colac welcomes affected farmers
Meanwhile, Colac Otway Shire Council says it anticipates Colac’s saleyards will be busier following the decision to close Geelong’s saleyards and welcomed farmers affected by the change.
Colac Otway Shire Mayor Cr Chris Potter said Colac’s saleyards had already accommodated some of Geelong’s beef and sheep sales since the temporary closures a year ago.
“We’re committed to welcoming those farmers as immediately as our next sale day. We’ve had ongoing discussions with the City of Greater Geelong about the possible need to support their current users, and now that the decision has been made we are more than prepared,” Cr Potter said.
“Fortunately as a premier selling centre in south-west Victoria with a $1.5 million roof constructed over our saleyards as recently as 2014, we believe any improvement needed will be minimal.”
Cr Potter said Colac Otway Shire had made no secret of its desire to grow the market share of the Colac Regional Saleyards.
“Our facility has enormous potential for growth. A recent City of Greater Geelong report indicates that of the producers who sold stock at Geelong 55.7 per cent of them already identified as also selling at Colac. This demonstrates that even while Geelong was operational, Colac already offered an attractive selling option to farmers.
“Our centre has a strong focus on animal welfare and in addition to being under cover, its strategically located just off the soon-to-be duplicated Princes Highway.
“We’re now committed to working with new customers to assist their transition and at the same time realise our opportunities for expansion," Cr Potter said.
Sources: Based on City of Greater Geelong and Colac Otway Shire media releases