MidCoast Council reviews Gloucester saleyards

Cattle waiting in the yard during a store sale at Gloucester's saleyard. Photo Anne Keen
Cattle waiting in the yard during a store sale at Gloucester's saleyard. Photo Anne Keen

Determining the future of Gloucester Livestock Exchange (saleyards) is currently under review by MidCoast Council.

Council was presented a briefing note at the March 18 Strategic Committee Meeting held in Forster which summarises the existing sale arrangements at the saleyards and outlines a review conducted by independent consultant’s GHD into its facilities and operations. 

The review was a motion approved by the former Gloucester Shire Council, which had been delayed due to the council amalgamation. 

The briefing note explains how, in 2013/2014 Gooch Agencies became the sole operator permitted to sell cattle at the regular store sales, held on the second and fourth Thursday of the month, with Gooch’s current six month permit due to expire on June 30, 2018.

“Historically, regular fat sales were scheduled for the first and third Thursday of each month, but these sales are now often cancelled due to a lack of throughput. Any agent who requests a permit is permitted to sell at these sales,” the briefing note states.

The note continues to outline how other agents in the area, including Bowe and Lidbury, Hannaford Stock and Land and First National Gloucester have tried to obtain a permit to sell at the regular store sales but have not been granted access, based on council's preferred historical approach.

“There are arguments both ways as to whether this historical approach is fair and equitable,” the note explains. 

“On the one hand, Gooch Agencies should be entitled to the goodwill that they have built up over the years for those sale days and on the other hand, agents wishing to sell at the saleyards on nominated store sale days should not be prevented from doing so.”

Further to the existing sale arrangements, the note summarised the GHD review about the financial state of the saleyards, which are owned by council.

The review stated the annual throughput of cattle has been declining since 2001/2002, mostly due to the reduction in fat cattle sales.

It stated the 2017 throughput was 16,593 head of cattle and that the sale of store cattle has remained relatively unchanged despite a reduced number of agents selling. 

“In order to breakeven (and fund future capital improvements), GHD estimate that throughput of 18,000 - 20,000 head per annum is required,” the note stated.

Off the back of the review, council will be publishing an Expressions of Interest (EOI) to the general public for anyone interesting is selling from the saleyards to put forth a proposal to council. 

Council’s acting manager Property and Commercial Services, Allison Anthony said based on the review the most viable option is to conduct two store sales, keeping to the existing Thursdays; however, council will consider other sale options put forth by potential sellers.

Proposal will be considered and the matter will be reported back to council in a timely manner, keeping in mind the pending expiration of Gooch’s permit.

Ultimately, Ms Anthony explained that if council isn’t presented with viable options the future of the saleyards will be re-accessed; meaning council will explore every option including long-term lease hold, sale of the yards or its closure. She explained that if it gets to this stage the Gloucester community will be consulted and the community benefit of the saleyards will be considered. 

Council plans to have the EOI published shortly and the proposal review well underway by the start of June.