By Jeremy Sollars
The Southern Downs Regional Council has endorsed a new Master Plan for the council-owned Warwick Saleyards but the document is ‘commercial in confidence’ and was tabled during a confidential session of the September council meeting held in Stanthorpe earlier today, Wednesday 25 September.
Despite the council not releasing details of the Master Plan a spokeswoman said in a statement “it is noted that none of the recommendations relate to the privatisation of the Warwick Saleyards”.
“In June 2019, Council commissioned the preparation of a Master Plan for the Warwick Saleyards,” the spokeswoman said.
“This Plan has now been completed and was presented to Council at the General Meeting held today.
“The preparation of this Plan involved significant consultation with key stakeholders of the saleyards to ensure all aspects have been considered.
“The Plan is the first phase in a number of stages that will identify operational efficiencies of the saleyards; review and recommend safety improvements; and provide future options to ensure that the saleyards remain a viable business entity returning financial surpluses that benefit the entire community.
“Considerable advancements have occurred in animal husbandry practices and work health and safety requirements over the years and it is important that these are incorporated into Warwick Saleyards.
“As the development of this Plan is only the initial phase of a multi-staged process, Council also endorsed the development of a detailed business case to validate some of the recommendations for the saleyards.
“Upon completion of the detailed business case, Council will fully consider the future direction for the saleyards and be in a position to provide details to the community about potential options.
“The detailed business case will also allow Council to apply for funding opportunities that will financially support any enhancements to the saleyards.”
Councillor for Finance, Governance and The Arts and Deputy Mayor Jo McNally said the Master Plan “represents the commencement of future-proofing the saleyards operations for the region”.
“Now that Council has received the report, we will progress to the next stage of the process and undertake a detailed business case to fully assess future options of how we operate the saleyards in the short, medium and long term,” Cr McNally said.
“Council is committed to operating the saleyards in a financially sustainable manner, from which profits filter back into providing numerous services to all ratepayers.”
A previous potential plan to lease or outsource management of the Saleyards to a private operator drew fierce opposition from the region’s primary production sector and was eventually shelved by the council in June 2018, after negotiations with a ‘preferred tenderer’ fell through.
The identity of the ‘preferred tenderer’ was never disclosed by the council.
When asked on the record at a public meeting held at the Warwick Town Hall in early June 2018 if the council would consider proceeding down the leasing or outsourcing path again Mayor Tracy Dobie stated that would not happen “during the term of the current council”
Minutes of a meeting of the council’s Saleyards Advisory Committee held on Thursday 29 August this year were also tabled and received by councillors during the ‘confidential’ section of today’s monthly meeting.