SLAP IN FACE: Beef heavyweights slam SDRC on saleyards
Industry heavyweights have slammed the decision to upgrade the existing Warwick Saleyards site rather than relocate the facility as a "slap in the face" that could set the region's agricultural sector back decades.
Southern Downs councillors voted for plans for the "major redevelopment and enhancement of the existing facility", which at $7.5 million would prove less extensive and cost half as much as either of the two masterplanned options.
The surprise third proposal was first revealed to the public earlier this week on Monday in Southern Downs Regional Council's meeting agenda, with the Brownfields and Greenfields options first disclosed in 2019.
Designed to act as a communication point between SDRC and users of the Warwick facility, the Saleyards Advisory Committee spent years engaging with producers, agents, and other Queensland saleyards to reach the best solution.
Chairman Jim Wedge said the council suddenly pushed through a third proposal without notifying or consulting the committee, leaving him and his fellow representatives "disappointed".
He added he struggled to see a future for their group.
"This option they've gone for has come out of left field the last couple of days, and they haven't bothered to give us the courtesy to comment on it or talk to them about it," Mr Wedge said.
"Probably my biggest concern is an independent outside company could now develop a saleyards site somewhere else on the Darling Downs, which will drag a lot of the business away from the existing saleyards.
"I'm also worried it's going to be a waste of ratepayers' money. The committee and I've been looking at the long-term big picture that is best for Warwick. The council have chosen the short-term fix, which may not guarantee the long-term future of the saleyards."
"I'm loath to spend any more time talking about the subject, really. I really can't see a position or a purpose for the saleyards advisory board heading into the future, if this is the way the council is going to treat them."
Fellow SAC representative Ross Fraser said the blindsiding was only made worse by fears the "patch-up job" would undermine nearly 60 years of hard work toward making Warwick a competitive facility.
"It's a slap in the face for the advisory committee, who put a lot of time and thought into the two options we looked at - it's really disappointing," Mr Fraser said.
"I think what was most disappointing was yesterday's decision was determined by councillors who don't even live here.
"You have to look to the future in 50 years, not tomorrow. It's a really, really disappointing decision made in haste on a very serious issue for Warwick."
The decision was staunchly opposed in Wednesday's meeting by councillors Cynthia McDonald, Jo McNally, Sheryl Windle, and Marco Gliori.
"(This decision) isn't for the next generation, it has no foresight. It's a stop-gap and it won't see the saleyards be sustainable into the future," Cr McNally said.
"I'm disappointed greatly that (the committee) were not given the opportunity to have a meeting and then come back to us. It's an insult to them," Cr Windle said.
Despite the almost immediate industry backlash, Mayor Vic Pennisi said all stakeholders were given their opportunity to have a say.
"We now need to pull the rope the same way and figure out how we're going to get the best bang for our buck in relation to the decision that's been made," he said.
An SDRC spokeswoman said funds from the 2020/21 budget would be allocated to developing preliminary designs, with a working group to be formed at a later date.