LAST week the Shire of Capel deferred a vote on whether or not to authorise its acting chief executive officer to give public notice on the proposed renewal of the Boyanup Cattle Saleyards to Elders Rural Services Limited and Nutrien Ag Solutions Limited - WA Livestock Salesmens' Association (WALSA) - for a period of 10 years, plus a 10-year extension.
The council held a special council meeting on June 2 to discuss the matter after a previous council meeting in May failed to have a quorum to vote on the issue.
S & C Livestock livestock manager Phil Petricevich was at the meeting last week and brought it to the attention of the council that there was allegedly an ACCC investigation underway into WALSA's dealings at the Boyanup saleyards and he also questioned why they were rushing to extend the lease when the current one didn't expire until June 2022.
The council then decided to delay the vote until the end of the month when more information could be sourced.
The ACCC said it was "unable to comment on individual companies or matters that we may or may not be investigating".
WALSA has leased the Boyanup Cattle Saleyards from the Shire of Capel since 2002 and has been in communication over the past two years trying to work out future arrangements.
Mr Petricevich said the five independent livestock agencies in WA, Westcoast Wool & Livestock, Ray White Livestock, AWN, Delany Livestock and S & C Livestock, would like the opportunity to work out of the Boyanup Cattle Saleyards and that was being denied by the Shire of Capel if it renewed a 10 year lease to WALSA.
They would be pushing for the WA Meat Industry Authority to take over the saleyards to allow all agents access similar to the Muchea Livestock Centre.
WALSA chairman Dean Hubbard, Elders State wool and livestock manager, said the two companies were totally backing livestock agents and their commitment to the South West cattle market.
He said while the government owned the land where the yards were located, WALSA owned the yard infrastructure and as such had a right to include or exclude other agencies, just like any other commercial operation was entitled to with its competitors.
If the lease was discontinued WALSA had the right to remove the yards or sell them at its discretion.
At its November 27, 2019, ordinary meeting the Capel council resolved to authorise its CEO to write to WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan and other necessary entities indicating its in principle support for: the continuation of saleyard operations at the current Boyanup location; the continuation of any necessary negotiation to develop options and contingencies to facilitate long-term planning for sale yard operations at Boyanup; indicate the shire's preparedness to negotiate a future lease and agreements to support the continuation of saleyard operations; and that the council authorise the CEO and councillor Murray Scott to negotiate the terms of a draft future lease agreement, with any proposed lease to be brought back to council for final approval.
"Shire officers have been working with external stakeholders to investigate and facilitate the continued leasing and operation of the Boyanup Cattle Saleyards," the latest council agenda said.
The council was informed that the existing lease with WALSA yielded $77,706 per annum and that there was "continued economic benefit to the district of a continued operation at this site".
"There are likely costs of a disruptive and significant nature to the local economy if operations discontinue at the current site.
"Consultants are undertaking a property valuation to ascertain the market value to be advertised.
"Authorising the acting CEO to proceed to advertising upon receipt of the property valuation, is prudent to provide efficiency.
"A subsequent report will provide an opportunity for the council to consider the submissions received and conduct a thorough assessment of the benefits and risks associated with continuing to lease the Boyanup Cattle Saleyards."
Mr Petricevich said about 100,000 head of cattle had been put through the Boyanup saleyards in the past 12 months, a record number in a year since it was built in the 1960s and WALSA was charging about $4 per head in yarding fees.
He said a serious amount of money would need to be spent if it was to be leased for a further 20 years and WALSA hadn't invested anywhere near the amount of money it was making from being the sole leases of the yards since 2002.
Mr Petricevich was doubtful WALSA would undertake major works at the site which were needed to improve animal welfare standards to an acceptable level - even if it did put a roof on for cover and rubber floors to improve animal comfort in the pens.
His comments were supported by local cattle producers who would prefer a new set of yards similar to the Muchea Livestock Centre for improved working conditions and animal safety.
Ms MacTiernan said the Shire of Capel needed to "bring this issue to a resolution".
"Discussions around extending the lease begun with the shire more than two years ago," Ms MacTiernan said.
"Unfortunately, frequent changes on council and in administration at the shire have meant reaching this point has taken considerably longer than it should have.
"It makes sense to use this site for the next decade as we monitor changing patterns in the way livestock sales occur."
"We note a trend to direct sales - this new lease would give us time to see where this finally lands.
"WALSA has agreed to fund upgrades at the saleyards in the event the lease is extended - which is appropriate, given this is a commercial operation.
"We will need to consider whether it is necessary to review the management order the shire has over the land to bring this matter to a resolution."
- The Harvey Shire has put its support behind a working group to look into a possible future cattle saleyards at the Kemerton Industrial Park as an alternative to the Boyanup Cattle Saleyards.
The decision was made last week at a council meeting.
Shire president Paul Gillett said a study had been done years ago but it had lost momentum and been shelved, but there was now support in the shire to "get the ball rolling" on it - saying the study just needed updating.
The working group was expected to meet this week and would include members from WAFarmers, Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of WA, as well as lotfeeders.
Mr Gillett said the Kemerton site offered advantages over other proposed sites for a future saleyard in that a truck washdown bay could be built next door and it already had State government road infrastructure to support heavy vehicles.
He said there had been no discussion about the shire contributing to any future saleyards in the area but if the idea got the backing of the industry and council, they would seek State and Federal government funding to get it off the ground - which was likely to be far less than the $20 million touted in a Deloitte's Economics report.
"The Kemerton Industrial Park has a 10,000 acre buffer zone and has approval for a piggery, as well as the Goodchilds Meats abattoir located there," Mr Gillett said.
"With biosecurity and food security such important issues, we see it as an important move for the future of the industry in our region."
Mr Gillett said once the study was done he would present it to council with proposals and "take it from there".