Expressions of interest for proposals to lease and upgrade the cattle selling and spelling facility at Longreach have been called by the Longreach Regional Council.
Mayor Ed Warren said the yards, which haven’t seen a sale since May 2014, were an important contributor to the local economy but to get them operational again would require a loan or a government grant.
“We had an interested party, not local, wanting to lease the whole establishment and it makes sense to look at it,” he said. “Expressions of interest mean any other interest can be declared.”
According to the Longreach Leader, Regional Infrastructure P/L has been in discussions with the council since 2012.
Formed to develop a network of regional livestock exchanges, the group’s website says it offers to “build, operate and manage new modern livestock saleyards at strategic locations where the stock numbers justify a significant multi million dollar investment”.
Existing facilities include CQLX at Rockhampton, plus Inverell, Tamworth, the Central Tablelands in NSW, and two others in northern and central Victoria.
One of the lease provisos in Longreach is for capital improvement over a five to 10 year period, specifically changes to the flow of cattle through the yards, in the drafting area, and shade requirements.
Cr Warren said a revamped saleyards advisory committee had been included in all discussions to date, and all agents understood that if the proposal progressed, they would enter into some sort of agreement with the other party in order to conduct sales, rather than with council.
In order to progress to this stage, the council needed to resolve land tenure issues.
The weighbridge stands on freehold land but the rest of the facility on either side was owned by Aurizon, which Cr Warren said council had now purchased.
He believed that getting the facility operational again wouldn’t take business away from the saleyards at Blackall 200km to the east, saying it could add value to them.
While he was the Longreach Dalgety’s manager he and other agents resuscitated the yards in 1989 after a six-year hiatus.
The Longreach yard’s peak throughput was in 2012, when 280,000 head were turned over on the back of the live export suspension, but numbers have ranged from 40,000 to 100,000 in normal circumstances.
“All indications are that there will be good support from away,” he said.
While not quantifying the economic benefit to the Longreach community, Cr Warren said it was substantial once meals, fuel and accommodation was factored in.
An added bonus was the renewed interest from Aurizon in cattle transport, and RTA had given an assurance it wanted to maintain its depot near the yards.
Regardless of lease arrangements, Cr Warren said Longreach agents were looking at kicking sales off again in March or April.