Geelong says goodbye to 150 years in the yards

The Southern Farmer
Geelong 02
CLOSED: The Geelong Saleyards’ final sheep sale was run late last month. PHOTO: City of Greater Geelong

IT was a bittersweet ending for the almost 150-year-old Geelong Saleyards structure – and one that local producers have fought hard to avoid.

“Where are people supposed to sell now?” Graeme Brown, vice president of the Victorian Farmers Federation’s Geelong branch and president of the VFF’s Bellarine branch, said.

“I can’t talk about this without swearing – it’s bloody ridiculous.”

The City of Greater Geelong owns and operates the saleyards, and prior to their closure ran fortnightly sheep and cattle auctions and poultry sales each Monday.

“They (Geelong council) have let the saleyards run down over the last 10 years,” Mr Brown said.

“We could have worked out an alternative if they had given us enough notice.”

Mr Brown said the closure of the Geelong Saleyards might see small producers choosing to opt out of livestock, rather than travelling to sell at Colac.

“The Geelong Saleyards were great for filling that gap for owners who just had a trailer load of sheep,” he said.

“It’s not worth their time or money taking them to Colac or Ballarat – it’s too far.”

The official closure comes after serious occupational health and safety hazards were flagged at the site more than 12 months ago.

Cattle sales were suspended in August last year.

UNFAIR: Graeme Brown, vice president of the VFF Geelong branch, said the decision to close the Geelong Saleyards could see many small producers get out of the game completely.

An independent report – completed by Zinc Cost Management and commissioned by the City of Greater Geelong – estimated that works to repair the cattle yards to an acceptable standard would cost just shy of $3 million.

Sheep sales were also suspended in August last year, and returned in February after $150,000 was spent on pen renovations.

A report by the City of Greater Geelong Council found that there had been a 70 per cent decline in cattle numbers through the saleyards over the last 16 years.

It also found the saleyards had operated at a loss of more than $200,000 for two years.

City of Greater Geelong administrator chair, Dr Kathy Alexander, said to spend millions of dollars upgrading the saleyards was not in Geelong’s best interest.

“It is clear to us that the livestock market has changed and will continue to do so – and we want to ensure that any significant funds for new farming infrastructure are wisely spent,” she said.

“Investment in infrastructure is costly and important, and what we need now to ensure we succeed in agribusiness might not be the same as what we needed in the past.

“In making a decision to permanently close the Geelong Saleyards, we’ve taken into account an extensive amount of information and community feedback – (but) at the end of the day, the responsibility and the risks associated with the saleyards rests with the city – and as administrators we must also heed professional advice from our engineers and independent advisors.”
The weekly poultry sales will continue at the Geelong Saleyards for the time being.

The truck wash will also remain open.

Following the closure of the saleyards, the City of Greater Geelong will now develop a precinct plan for the site.

More farming news and stories can be read in the September, 2017 print edition of The Southern Farmer or click here to access digital editions.