By Jeremy Sollars
Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie has conceded the council “could have done better” on public consultation over the future management of the Warwick Saleyards.
Speaking at a council ‘Q&A’ public session at the Warwick Town Hall last night Cr Dobie and council chief executive officer David Keenan fielded questions from the floor about the saleyards and other hot issues including the council’s controversial Invasive Pest Control Scheme (IPCS).
When questioned about the short length of time a survey on the Saleyards management options was open to the public late last year – along with secrecy over meetings of the council’s Saleyards Advisory Committee – the mayor conceded that in hindsight consultation over a possible move to lease the Saleyards to a private operator could have been handled better.
But she was at pains to stress that primary producers, agents and other parties with an interest in the Warwick Saleyards would be invited to an upcoming public forum, to be held once a ‘refined tender’ process with the council’s preferred tenderer for the Saleyards lease is completed.
She said the process should be finished in another “two or three weeks”.
The preferred tenderer is understood to be Regional Livestock Exchanges (RLX) which operates other saleyards in Queensland and New South Wales, including the Central Queensland Livestock Exchange at Gracemere near Rockhampton and saleyards at Tamworth and Inverell.
Producers in the region are concerned that a private operator leasing the Saleyards could jack up buyer and seller and agents fees, hitting the financial bottom line of livestock owners and driving them to online and paddock sales.
Cr Dobie again made it clear the Warwick Saleyards are not for sale and their continued management by council remained an option.
The mayor was asked if it was true she had made a comment to a member of the public at a recent ‘meet the people’ event in Rose City Shoppingworld that she personally was in favour of the management of the Saleyards staying with the council, which is the view held by most local producers.
Cr Dobie replied that she was “only one councillor” and that her eight councillor colleagues were entitled to their own personal opinion on the issue if it were to come to a vote.
A similar council ‘Q&A’ session will be held from 5.30pm today, Wednesday 21 March, at the Stanthorpe Civic Centre.
The session is expected to be fierier than Warwick’s last night – which was attended by around 50 members of the public – with a new push in the Stanthorpe community for de-amalgamation from Warwick.