THE Millicent cattle saleyards could be shut next year by Wattle Range Council unless a “realistic solution” to the facility’s financial woes is found in an upcoming public consultation process.
Due to ongoing losses caused by rising costs and declining stock throughput, the facility will possibly end 44 years of operation on June 30, 2020.
Its fate was debated at length by councillors after usual meeting procedures were suspended at the January monthly meeting in Millicent on Tuesday.
Councillors were passionate in their views about the saleyards with Cr Peter Dunnicliff urging continued financial support for their operation.
Cr Dunnicliff said the Gladys Smith Early Learning Centre in Millicent had previously been losing $250,000 per year.
“It is now making a profit,” Cr Dunnicliff said.
“We are not strapped for cash and the saleyards should not be shut down.”
Another supporter of the saleyards was Cr Kevin McGrath who estimated the remediation costs post-closure would be $500,000.
Councillor Moira Neagle said the saleyards relied on farmers and stock agents for support but this could not be mandated.
“There are social benefits,” Cr Neagle said.
“Yesterday, our family sold 27 head of cattle and 200 sheep and none went through the saleyards,” Cr Neagle said.
“Most producers expect the saleyards to close.”
Cr Rick Paltridge read from a prepared statement and said the long-term viability of the selling facility was in doubt.
“The Millicent saleyards has unsustainable losses and there is no alternative to closure,” Cr Paltridge said.
Deputy Mayor Cr Glenn Brown said he struggled to see the economic benefits of the saleyards.
“They provide a service to the community,” Cr Brown said.
He said the libraries, pools and the boat ramp are for everyone.
“The saleyards are for a small group and are an ongoing drain on the council area.”
Cr Brown said one final consultation with the community was warranted.
Cr Deb Agnew said she wanted to hear ideas to save the saleyards.
“Change is difficult,” Cr Agnew said.
Cr Graham Slarks said he did not want to see the saleyards close but felt it was inevitable.
According to Cr Dale Price, the people have voted with their feet.
“The writing has been on the wall for 20 years,” Cr Price said.
Cr Dean Burrow said no one in Riddoch Ward wanted to see the Millicent saleyards retained.
Council chief executive Ben Gower said the number of cattle sold at Millicent had declined by 8pc per annum for the past eight years.
Development services director Steve Chapple said the anticipated loss for the Millicent saleyards for the 2018/19 financial year was $100,000-$110,000.
Details of the consultation process have yet to be determined.