Saleyards to bring in private firm
GRACEMERE Saleyards, one of the region's icons and prime assets, will be under private management before Christmas, Mayor Brad Carter said yesterday.
Councillors met with representatives of Regional Infrastructure Pty Ltd this week and agreed to finalise negotiations with the New South Wales-based company for a contract for a 30-year lease.
Regional Infrastructure has agreed to invest substantially in the yards. Earlier this year the council said it would cost up to $15 million to upgrade the complex, which lost $345,000 in 2008.
Mayor Carter hailed the lease as a good outcome for ratepayers and graziers.
“The chief executive will finalise negotiations and a draft contract will be presented to council for approval, prior to gaining ministerial permission to press ahead,” he said.
“Regional Infrastructure is our preferred commercial partner, and the only company we are talking to. It is an experienced operator and has expertise in running similar facilities in other parts of Australia.”
He said the company would have free reign to run the business commercially and would set its own fees, improve facilities and meet strict animal welfare requirements.
“It's a deal that will guarantee the future of the saleyards and ensure that the asset is still owned by the council. It's a good option for the community because it will maintain the complex without placing a strain on the council's funds.”
He said he was confident the outcome would meet the needs and expectations of rural graziers and would enable the council to exit from an operation that was not a core business of a local authority.
Regional Infrastructure's chief executive Andrew McCarron said yesterday he was excited about the prospect of running the Gracemere facility.
“We want to grow the business. There is a great opportunity here for the complex to prosper. It is well positioned in cattle country and there is a solid base to work from to improve the business.”
Both sides say they expect to make swift progress towards a handover before Christmas, bringing to an end a process that has taken nearly two years.
The saleyards are the fourth largest in Queensland and play a key role in Rockhampton's status as the nation's Beef Capital.
The complex site covers more than 200 acres and regularly sells 100,000 head of cattle each year.
Councillors had considered an outright sale but decided to seek a long-term private sector partner.