THE debate around the future of Boyanup saleyards continues to frustrate cattle producers, processors and politicians alike with Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan expected to hold a forum on the issue this month.
A date and location for the forum is yet to be announced.
Liberal South West MLC Steve Thomas said he was “frustrated” with successive governments who had a lack of foresight and understanding of the saleyards
“It is inconceivable to me that at the end of the biggest economic boom in our State’s history, big enough to put a billion dollars a year into pet projects through Royalties for Regions (RfR), all of the funding for the Regional Saleyards Strategy is gone and the South West has been dudded again,” Mr Thomas said.
“It makes me even more angry to know that the strategy, developed over a decade ago, was already mostly funded through the sale of the Midland saleyards, which realised $79 million.
“The Regional Saleyard Strategy identified four developments – new yards in Muchea, Katanning and Boyanup, and upgrades in Mt Barker.
“At a total cost of around $100m the strategy was already 80 per cent funded in 2010, and surely an area worthy of a RfR’s top-up for the rest to support agriculture.
“The WA Meat Industry Authority (WAMIA) was also forced to find $100,000 in internal savings last year to fund the recent review of the saleyards conducted by the government, confirming that the $2m or so left over from the Midland sale after paying for the other three yards is now gone.
“To offer that money to WALSA for Boyanup – 10pc of what was needed to replace the yards – was a slap in the face to producers here.
“And election commitments in 2017 when we conservatives were staring down the barrel of an inevitable and obvious defeat were meaningless after eight and a half years of no action or outcome for Boyanup.”
Mr Thomas said leaving the Shire of Capel to pick up the pieces was a poor outcome for the beef and dairy industries in the South West.
“I believe that replacing the saleyards through private sector investment is only economically viable as a part of a larger agricultural and industrial precinct, which would allow additional industries to co-locate,” he said.
“This might include for example a regional waste processing facility that could use the waste generated by the saleyards.”
Mr Thomas said suggestions that the Boyanup saleyards was focussed on servicing the needs of smaller producers was both misleading and counterproductive.
“If, as ministers for Agriculture from all sides of politics have said in recent years, the private sector will have to build any replacement yards for Boyanup, how on earth can it be supportive to keep saying that these yards are not used by or important to larger commercial cattle breeders?” he said.
Founder of the South West Saleyard Action Group (SWSAG), Rodney Galati, said he was “bitterly disappointed in the current State government and its handling of the issue of the Boyanup saleyard replacement”.
“Our group consists of people from various sectors of the industry, including feedlotters, transporters, buyers, quarantine facility owners independent agents, to mention a few,” Mr Galati said.
“All are users of the current facility and are people willing to share their knowledge and experience with the government.”
Mr Galati said despite efforts by SWSAG to talk with government ministers about the issue, the group had been ignored, or have not been kept in the loop.
He said he was chasing answers to a lot of questions.
“So we ask, how much did Midland sell for?” he asked.
“How much was the final tally for Muchea?
“Where else has it been spent, and how much is left?
“Where do all the transaction levies farmers pay end up?
“Why did we need a feasibility study when government wasn’t keen to participate anyway?
Mr Galati said in the Eastern States new yards were continuously being built, larger than WA required, and at significantly lower prices than the $20m government had indicated for Boyanup.
“Primary producers seem to be an inadequate part of the government’s budgeting,” he said.
“It seems a minor cost for a long-term investment in comparison to other industries funded by government, and community funding that is sometimes questionable.
“Both the previous governments being Liberal and Labor before, were dedicated to having this antiquated facility replaced and historic documents and dialogue would agree with that.”
In response Ms MacTiernan said all but $2.2m of the funds available in the Regional Saleyard Strategy were expended on the Muchea Livestock Centre, the Katanning Regional Sheep Saleyards and on upgrades to the Mt Barker Saleyard.
The former government offered the $2.2 million to the WA Livestock Salesman’s Association to upgrade facilities at Boyanup on the condition that the facility would be open to other selling agents – “the offer was knocked back”.
Ms MacTiernan said the previous State government then returned this funding to consolidated revenue.
“I would encourage industry to take a creative approach to this situation and the need for a new South West facility,” Ms MacTiernan said.
“All options are on the table - and we are keen to hear suggestions from industry at our meeting.
“The Regional Saleyard Strategy was an initiative of the former government and we are committed to working with industry towards new saleyards in the South West.”
Ms MacTiernan said she would announce the location and date of the forum soon.