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Dubbo to go private?

DUBBO saleyards – the largest in NSW – may be about to join a growing number of selling centres in moving from council ownership into private hands.

Regional Infrastructure, the company behind the Central Tablelands Livestock Exchange (CTLX), at Carcoar, has already stated an interest in redeveloping the Dubbo Regional Livestock Markets after its owner, Dubbo City Council, called last week for expressions of interest for potential private sector involvement.

The council is proposing establishment of a new $13 million sheep selling centre on the present site and has called for possible private investment in the project.

Regional Infrastructure director, Garry Edwards, said this week that after development of CTLX, the Northern Victoria Livestock Exchange, at Wodonga, and centres in Ballarat, Victoria, and Rockhampton, Queensland,the Dubbo scheme fitted in with his company’s plans.

“Yes, we would be interested in Dubbo,” Mr Edwards said.

“Dubbo is a significant regional hub from our perspective and it fits into our business plan.

“We could develop the site and build it up from its current situation.”

Plans to redevelop the historic site, in the pipeline for several years, had been brought forward as a result of large sheep yardings at weekly sales, Dubbo City Council director of corporate development, Megan Dixon, said.

Since 1950, throughput of livestock at Dubbo had dramatically increased.

In the first full year of operation, the Dubbo market handled 9334 cattle and 145,843 sheep.

By 2007, the market was handling 178,845 cattle and 1.3 million sheep annually.

“For the last four years, we have been working on a masterplan and it would need $13 million for the sheep (yards) and $5 million for cattle further down the track,” Ms Dixon said.

“The saleyards do compete with other council amenities for funding and in the last two years, we have had really large yardings since we moved to one sheep sale a week.

“Regional Infrastructure has been quite forward with its intention to expand its reach but nothing has been decided and we are open to all options.”

Ms Dixon said the council would be open to a public-private partnership when expressions of interest close on February 15.

Before Christmas, Richmond Valley Council decided not to sell the Casino Regional Livestock Exchange – despite large private-sector interest.

However, a number of other councils have relinquished control over saleyards due to rising costs and increased animal welfare commitments.

Last year, Yass Valley Council backed plans by local landowner, Brendan Abbey, to build a

15,000 sheep and 2000 cattle capacity privately-owned sale centre on land near the Hume Highway.

The site of the council’s present saleyards – operated at a loss of $50,608 in 2009-10 – is earmarked for a housing development.

The shift towards establishing privately run yards is the result of councils having “many more restrictions” on how they run the business, says Narromine Shire Council general manager, Greg Lamont.

“The biggest threat to council-run saleyards is online selling because the buyer can look so easily at the lots,” he said.

“The private sector can deal with online selling much better than any council in the State.

“Privatisation (of Dubbo saleyards) will give them more flexibility to run a saleyard than the council has.”

But Mr Lamont said Narromine saleyards would remain in council hands and, despite large sheep yardings at nearby Dubbo, its “niche” as a centre for store sheep would enable it to continue to compete.

“Narromine has got options for it to continue to be a viable saleyards – we are in a niche market in store sheep, so we are hopeful of being here for a while yet,” he said.

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