THE debate over the Midland saleyards relocation reached new heights in recent months, with most of the focus being on where new yards would be located.
While Moora and Northam Shires have lobbied hard for the saleyards, Agriculture Minister Kim Chance was expected to confirm Muchea as the new site.
Meanwhile there had been some changes and improvements at the Midland saleyards, which has got people wondering if the yards were not going to stay where they were.
The Main Roads department recently extended Clayton Street through the yards as part of the Midland Redevelopment Authority's future road design strategy and development plans for the area.
Clayton Street used to curve around saleyard land but now carried on straight through to a set of lights at Lloyd Street, where a new entrance was located.
This left a section of saleyard land annexed but according to WA's Meat Industry Authority chief executive officer Mike Donnelly the loss of 0.6h of crown land would be offset by having frontage on both sites, increasing land values.
Mr Donnelly said the Midland Redevelopment Authority paid for the cost of moving the saleyards' truck wash, workshop and some resurfacing. It had also replaced some land on the western side of the yards.
The MIA also had some extra resurfacing done within the saleyards at the same time.
Mr Donnelly said the MIA allocated part of its operating budget to capital improvement on a needs basis and in the past 8-10 years there had been substantial increases in saleyard fees to help upgrade cattle yards.
However, he still had doubts the Midland Saleyards could comply with a National Livestock Identification System for cattle expected to be compulsory in WA by 2005.
"While the saleyards are here you need to keep spending money to comply with environmental, animal welfare and occupational safety and health issues," he said.
He said the MIA was facing three civil claims from people injured at the yards. Some of these claims were being defended.
There had also been several workers compensation claims stemming from use of outdated equipment.
While money had also been spent on the sheep yards the MIA spent about $20,000-$30,000 each year on maintenance around the yards, which including dust control and fixing roadways.
Mr Donnelly said debate about relocating the Midland Saleyards had also occurred in the late 1980s during which time little money had been spent on the yards.
He said the MIA was a statutory body that received its operating income from saleyard fees, running agistment and regulating abattoirs.
He said the Midland yards usually broke even or operated $50,000-$100,000 either side of the $1.1m they cost to operate.
In the 2001-02 year 1.2m sheep and lambs, 139,000 head of cattle and 19,000 pigs went through the Midland yards. Compared to the previous year this was a drop of 1000 pigs, an increase of 20,000 cattle. Sheep remained constant.
The saleyard charges for sheep and lambs were currently set at 39c a head, cattle $3.30, calves $2.20 and $1.20 for pigs.
Mr Donnelly said that when he became CEO in 1995 he transferred about 50ha of meat commission land over to the MIA.
The 50ha on the other side of the Helena River, which was leased and used for agistment, was part of the saleyards' freehold land.
Mr Donnelly said that about four of five years ago a 4ha parcel of land across the road from the 50ha sold for $1m. The saleyard site itself was made up of about 13ha of crown land.
Mr Donnelly said the MIA had been given the job to see if it was feasible to relocate the Midland Saleyards from the proceeds of the Midland saleyards' land. "That's been done," he said.
He said a multi-species facility was more viable because of less doubling up in infrastructure and running costs and licences, with diversification of species also helping keep yards afloat when either sheep or cattle prices were down.