THE Western Australian Livestock Salesmen's Association (WALSA) has hit back at recent media reports suggesting the Boyanup Saleyards facility is "archaic" and "fails to meet basic animal welfare standards".
WALSA chairman Dean Hubbard said WALSA was in regular contact with the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development (DPIRD) and WorkSafe and no such suggestion or advice had been given to it by either party.
"WorkSafe signed off on improvements they saw fit to be made last year and WALSA has had no further requests from them throughout any of our ongoing dialogue," Mr Hubbard said.
"DPIRD representatives attend every sale held at Boyanup and there has not been any approach from them about any issues, or from any other industry body for that matter."
WALSA has leased the Boyanup Saleyards site from the Shire of Capel since 2002, but owns all of the above ground infrastructure and 30 per cent of the land on which it stands.
Two land titles are owned by the State government as Crown Land given to the Shire of Capel for the express purpose of saleyards facility usage and parking in 1964 and 1967, with the remaining title owned by the Public Transport Authority rail reserve.
Much of the dissension over the Boyanup Saleyards, which was established in 1961, stems from the long-running debate over whether the yards are to be refurbished or replaced, with industry largely calling for a new South West saleyards facility to be built since the closure of the Midland Saleyards in April 2010 and the subsequent opening of its replacement, the new State government-owned WAMIA Muchea Livestock Centre in May, 2010.
"On the basis of the 2017 Deloitte report we were hopeful and a bit expectant, a new saleyards facility would be built at Boyanup well ahead of when WALSA's current lease expires on June 30 this year," Mr Hubbard said.
"But it has continued to be a political hot potato regardless of which party is in power and two and a half years ago it became apparent to WALSA getting a new facility built by government was looking highly unlikely.
Mr Hubbard said prior to the last State election in March 2021, WALSA received a letter from Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan stating she would support the long-term lease of the Boyanup Saleyards to WALSA, provided it undertook responsibility for refurbishments, upgrades, traffic management, extensions to the yards and other designated items.
"Immediately following the election, WALSA commenced discussions with the Shire of Capel and we had several very productive meetings," Mr Hubbard said.
"A tentative agreement outlining details for a long-term lease was drawn up but not tabled.
"Negotiations stalled in early 2021 when the ACCC undertook to investigate a complaint it received that the Shire of Capel had engaged in anti-competitive conduct in awarding the Boyanup Saleyards lease to WALSA.
"While the ACCC found there was no case to answer, it cost us several months of negotiation time while the investigation took place."
Mr Hubbard said negotiations were further hampered by local government elections at the Shire of Capel which saw three new councillors elected and resulted in a period of interim CEOs.
"We accept that a new CEO needs to take some time to get across the issues, but it meant we did not have dialogue again with council until November last year," he said.
"And the first meeting of the full council where the lease could be discussed did not take place until January 19 this year."
Mr Hubbard said while no formal lease agreement had been provided to WALSA, a tentative agreement had proposed a 10-year lease with a further 10 years "subject to the mutual agreement of both parties at the time".
"We are very uncomfortable with the nature of the 10 years by mutual agreement option," Mr Hubbard said.
"Given the amount of money WALSA is being expected to spend on upgrading the yards, according to what the minister outlined in her letter and what the council is proposing, we need far greater surety on the tenure of our lease agreement.
"We need to know for certain we have the option of a 20-year contract based on 10 plus 10 years, not 10 years with maybe another 10 years.
"Any business in this same situation would expect that, to justify the extent of the financial outlay involved.
"The council has asked WALSA to provide details of the capital work and upgrades it would undertake on the basis of a new lease but it is very difficult (and maybe even fiscally irresponsible) to provide that commitment until this issue is resolved."
Mr Hubbard said with the expiry of the current lease now just four months away, there was very little time for action to be taken.
"On the basis of this, we have asked the council for a short-term extension on our current lease, but this is yet to be granted," he said.
Given the terms of the current lease includes a 'make good' clause stating WALSA must return the site to a bare earth plot on the expiry of the lease, there is a very real possibility South West cattle producers could be left with no Boyanup Saleyards facility beyond June 30.
Shire of Capel president Doug Kitchen confirmed council was in discussions with WALSA and that a new lease contract was being negotiated.
"As is due process, we advertised publicly our intention to renew the lease with WALSA last November and received 11 submissions as a result (between December 7, 2021 and January 5, 2022)," Mr Kitchen said.
"These were tabled at our council meeting on Wednesday, January 19 and given much of the comment from the public submissions centred around the longer term future of the saleyards, this formed the basis for our decisions.
"The saleyards are important to the South West, to our local economy, our producers and are of considerable economic value to the Shire of Capel so we want them to remain within the district, but located outside of the Boyanup townsite," Mr Kitchen said.
The Shire began dialogue on moving the yards in 2017 when discussing a five-year lease agreement of the saleyards to WALSA.
'An expressions of interest process was conducted by WAMIA on behalf of the State Government in August 2018, but did not receive sufficient responses to progress a viable saleyard replacement option for the South West Region'.
But at its February 2022 council meeting, the Shire resolved to revisit the saleyards site issue with the intention of finding a suitable site within the Shire of Capel, to build a new facility with industry partners, either public or private or both and preferably with State and Federal government assistance, Mr Kitchen said.
"In an ideal situation, we would hope that a new long-term facility would be operational at the end of the next 10-year lease period and we would be seeking expertise from outside parties to run such a facility once built," he said.
"In the meantime, the Shire and WALSA are working to ensure that the new lease is in place by June 30, but if negotiations are not completed by then a 'holding over period' can exist whereby the original lease conditions remain in place until the new lease contract is finalised," Mr Kitchen said.
The granting of the new lease to WALSA by the Shire of Capel (as outlined in council minutes from its January 19 meeting) is 'subject to the negotiation of a Capital Upgrade Plan and Management Plan with WALSA that addresses compliance with, but is not limited to:
i. Animal welfare legislation, regulations and standards
ii. WHS standards, worker qualifications and incident response plans
iii. Environmental matters including, waste and effluent management, odour, noise and dust
iv. Operating standards, security and times
v. Public access, vehicular movement and management, parking and conditions of entry
vi. Access for people living with a disability
vii. Facility standards, amenity and maintenance.
viii. The installation of either shade sails or solid roof over all cattle pens no later than October 31, 2022
This is to be carried out to the satisfaction of shire officers'.
What remains now is for WALSA and the Shire of Capel to reach agreement in signing a new lease for the running of the Boyanup Saleyards or WA's South West cattle producers could find themselves without this local regional selling facility post June 30.
2017 REPORT POINTS TO IMPORTANCE OF SALEYARDS
A 50-page Deloitte Access Economics report, on the Replacement of the Boyanup Saleyards handed down in May 2017, included the following statements.
Deloitte Access Economics (Deloitte) has been engaged by the Western Australian Meat Industry Authority (WAMIA) to assess the future need for a livestock facility in the South West of Western Australia to replace the Boyanup saleyards.
The current Boyanup saleyard is old and in need of investment if it is to meet current and future standards (such as animal welfare).
Its age and location close to residential areas limits its further development and, in 2022, the lease on the site will expire and is not expected to be renewed.
Overall conclusion on need to replace Boyanup (Questions 1, 4 & 5)
Our analysis indicates that there is a need for a replacement saleyard in the South West, in the sense that there will be ongoing demand for a saleyard in the region.
The key evidence supporting this view includes:
Most primary producers in the South West operate small beef cattle herds - the median number of cattle sold by Boyanup users was 21 over the period 2015 to 2017.
Want weekly news highlights delivered to your inbox? Sign up to the Farm Weekly newsletter.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.