By Jeremy Sollars
The Southern Downs Regional Council says it cannot provide a timeframe for assessment of a tender for the leasing out of the Warwick Saleyards to a private operator.
As reported late last month the leasing out of the saleyards moved a step closer after the September meeting of the Southern Downs Regional Council.
Councillors voted to move to a “refined tender process” after calling for expressions of interest (EOIs) for leasing out of the saleyards.
A council statement issued on Friday 22 September referred to a “preferred respondent” from the EOI process who had been chosen to move to the next stage and submit a formal tender to the council.
The statement did not name the interested party.
The Free Times this week asked the council if it could provide details of how long the formal tendering process was likely to take and when a final decision on leasing out of the saleyards was expected to be made.
A council spokeswoman said the “process between the preferred responder and council is ongoing, and therefore no specific timeframe can be given”.
“A formal tender document will be required to be submitted,” the spokeswoman said.
The move to the next stage of the process followed a meeting of the council’s Saleyards Advisory Committee on Thursday 7 September, the minutes of which were adopted by councillors in a confidential session of September’s council meeting.
Mayor Tracy Dobie has continued to reiterate that the saleyards “are not for sale”, but many producers and livestock industry operators believe leasing the saleyards to a private operator represents an equal level of control of the facility by outside interests.
Cr Dobie has also stated that the council can choose not to award a lease and continue to directly operate the saleyards.
She said in September that while the council has run the saleyards effectively to this point, “professional experienced management is necessary to ensure best practice”.
“Competitive pricing remains a priority for council, as competitors to both the north and south of Warwick are undertaking major upgrades to their facilities, including a $14 million facility upgrade at Casino,” she said.
“Council also believes the saleyards have a unique opportunity to demonstrate the high quality of local produce on display, supporting the agricultural sector, which is the biggest contributor to the local economy.
“Over the next few months the preferred respondent in the Expressions of Interest process will be requested to respond to issues raised by the council and the Saleyards Advisory Committee.
“At the end of the tender process, council can choose to issue the tender, or cease the process.
“It is important that the Warwick Saleyards function effectively, and remain competitive.”