Council to release saleyards lease
FINANCIAL details of the lease deal for Gracemere Saleyards could be released as early as this morning after councillors decided yesterday it was in the public interest to let people know.
Although a contract was signed between Rockhampton Regional Council and Regional Infrastructure Pty Ltd before Christmas, after many months of confidential negotiations, the council has previously refused to say how much the lessee paid for the business or the annual lease.
The refusal had led to speculation, aired on the letters pages of this newspaper, that the deal was a poor one and the council had good cause to keep details confidential.
But councillors yesterday made it clear they believed ratepayers had every right to know and some expressed surprise that the council had acted with such secrecy.
Cr Sandra O’Brien told yesterday afternoon’s Finance and Governance Committee: “Let’s consider who owns the saleyards. It’s the public, and they have the right to know what has been agreed.
“I think we did everything correctly throughout the negotiations and I believe it is right to release the information,” she said.
Cr Brett Svendsen, who had opposed the deal in principal, said despite his objections he thought the council had struck a desirable outcome and the figures should come out.
The council will discuss the decision this morning with its new partner before issuing a release detailing how much it received for the sale of the business, including some stock, plant and equipment.
It will also say how much the council will receive in an annual fee for the lease of the saleyards buildings, which remain the property of the council.
Cr Bill Ludwig said he was surprised there was any attempt to withhold the information once the negotiations were complete.
And Mayor Brad Carter said in hindsight the matter might have been handled differently.
He proposed that in future the council should respect the need to maintain confidentiality in all council negotiations.
It should then be up to councillors to decide what was in the public interest and what details should be made public.