No funding for saleyards

REEVALUATE: District Council of Grant chief executive officer Darryl Whicker, Mount Gambier and District Saleyards strategy committee presiding member and councillor Barry Kuhl, and Mayor Kylie Boston will begin to reevaluated the future of the Mount Gambier Districts Livestock Exchange 2030 Transformation Project. Picture: SUPPLIED

Charlotte Varcoe

GRANT District Council has expressed its disappointment for the future of the Mount Gambier and Districts Saleyards following its unsuccessful application in the Growing Regions Fund.

Council applied for $7m towards the Mount Gambier Districts Livestock Exchange 2030 Transformation Project which would further develop the popular site with soft-floor cladding, cattle yard roofing, holding pen reconfigurations, sprinkler systems and rainwater harvesting.

Council endorsed the full program application earlier this year which was submitted to the federal government for consideration.

Previously, council had applied for the Building Better Regions Round Five funding program and was unsuccessful.

It also applied for Round Six of the program which was never assessed by the Labor Government.

This was prior to the announcement of the Growing Regions Fund.

District Council of Grant chief executive Darryl Whicker said council was disappointed with the outcome of the funding application.

“Disappointed is a bit of an understatement at the moment given the amount of effort everybody in council along with our strategic committee, partners, preferred suppliers and stakeholders have put into this application over almost a four year period,” Mr Whicker said.

“At this point there is a bit of uncertainty around what we will be doing and we will be trying to seek out the feedback to better position the opportunity for a further grant application decision.”

He said the saleyards infrastructure as it currently stood was nearing the end of its useful life.

“That a transformation project of this nature is desperately required,” Mr Whicker said.

“In order to achieve that there will need to be both state and federal government funding.”

He said it was difficult to invest in projects which directly benefit foreign producers and the agriculture sector.

“The nature of a public auction and livestock exchange is one of those rare opportunities,” Mr Whicker said.

“It is one of those rare opportunities to really direct funding at the grassroots where people who were primary producers benefit from the auction price.”

He said moving forward it would be difficult for council to complete the project without “substantial investment”.

“We have done all the hard work, we have got detailed designs and preferred suppliers and broad community support but it would need to be a decision for council to continue applying,” Mr Whicker said.

“It is fair to say that from the original application to now given the longevity of time between lodgement and assessment that it is likely to put award pressure on materials and costs.”

He said the saleyards would continue to operate following a successful saleyard for almost 40 years.

“Consecutively there is around $150m a year annually of sales achieved and it continues to be supported as a viable option for sales,” Mr Whicker said.

Mayor Kylie Boston congratulated the successful applicants from across the country despite council’s disappointment.

“It is very disappointing after we have been working very hard for the last four years to position this project to the best value for the whole region,” Ms Boston said.

“It is very disappointing and we now need to sit down with all the stakeholders and everyone and just have a look at what we can do.”

She said she noticed there was no funding for the broader Limestone Coast and expressed disappointment at the region being overlooked.

“I think the closest project was the Riverland and there is nothing being spent in our region at all,” Ms Boston said.

“We are now waiting for feedback as we did not receive feedback.

“All we got was a letter stating we were unsuccessful.”

She said elected members remained passionate about the future of the saleyards and understood how important the sales were for the community.

“We were recognised as being in the top 10 projects in the Regional Development Australia for South Australia and it was recognised from the state government because of the pre-election promise of funding so I do not understand how it cannot be of importance to the federal government,” Ms Boston said.

“It has been a tough 12 months for the saleyards, we have seen lamb prices fall and all these prices on site ease back.”

Mount Gambier and District Saleyards strategy committee presiding member, Kongorong farmer and Councillor Barry Kuhl said the project is critical for future agricultural growth and development within the district.

“It is disappointing not to have essential funding awarded to this development as the saleyards have a long history of supporting agriculture in our region and throughout Australia,” Mr Kuhl said.

“The saleyards are an excellent example of how council infrastructure provides a necessary service to our local community but without upgraded assets in place, such a service cannot be delivered.

“To ensure the saleyards remain sustainable for future generations, appropriate funding is needed now.”

Member for Barker Tony Pasin expressed his disappointment in the lack of funding across the Limestone Coast with all three proposed projects snubbed.

He said communities in Barker had been suffering from a federal government “funding drought” for two years.

“The Labor Government in Canberra imposed a two-year funding drought on regional communities as a result of the Prime Minister’s decisions to abolish former Coalition Government programs designed to strengthen rural and regional Australia and has failed to deliver funding initiatives of their own in a timely manner,” Mr Pasin said.

“Now, a day after successful projects were intended to begin construction, Minister King announces successful applicants under the Growing Regions grant program and it has completely neglected the Limestone Coast,” Mr Pasin said.

A state government spokesperson said it was disappointed the project did not receive funding from the federal government.

“ Our $2.7million commitment demonstrated our support of the important project,” the spokesperson said.

“ Grant District Council has indicated it will now reevaluate the future of the project.”