The Tumut saleyards will be locked and monitored by Snowy Valleys Council amid concerns some selling agents are taking advantage of the “honesty system” in place.
The new system will require agents to collect a key from a Snowy Valleys Council staff member to use the yards, with the council then counting cattle numbers.
The move is part of a $40,000 review of the yards by the council and will be implemented for a year, before councillors consider a report on the viability of the facility.
The council’s saleyards committee, which is made up largely of those who use the yards, had asked the council to maintain the current system, whereby sellers have open access, and then self-report any usage to the council.
But councillors rejected the request.
“They’ve been ripping us off for years, and don’t want that to change,” Cr Bruce Wright said at the council’s September meeting.
The viability of the saleyards has been questioned for years, with numerous reports coming before council over the past two decades.
One ongoing concern has been the environmental impacts of the facility, with run-off from the site into nearby properties failing to meet EPA standards, while neighbours have questioned the location of the yards so close to the township.
The latest review aims to pinpoint exact numbers of cattle going through the site, ensuring the newfound focus on monitoring was essential, according to Cr Margaret Isselmann.
“It’s vital we’re fully informed as to what the usage statistics are for the saleyards,” Cr Isselmann said. “Having that monitoring to give us reliable data for future planning is essential.”
The council had earlier this year considered putting in CCTV to oversee the facility, but decided a manual monitoring system would be more cost effective.
A report to the council in July by staff member Glenn McGrath stated the yards were nearing the end of their useful life, with significant deterioration of the concrete surface having been patched over for the past five years to ensure it’s safe to use.
The council spends about $28,500 on maintenance at the site.
The council owns the land, which it has valued at $218,000.
Mr McGrath noted there were a number of other competing facilities in the region, including a private operation at Adelong, as well as larger regional facilities at Bomen (Wagga) and Yass, which are used weekly.
Cattle numbers going through Tumut’s yards have been officially recorded at 3650, but the saleyards committee say the numbers are significantly higher.
Under the new monitoring program, the yards will be locked and anyone wanting to use the facility will have to contact the council, which will send out a staff member to attend and unlock the facility, and count the stock to be unloaded. The same process will have to followed when the stock are to be transported from the site.
Electronic forms will be used for more efficient invoicing, as well as data collection.
At the larger sales, held a few times a year, a council employee will be assigned as a scribe to the agents, to ensure an accurate record of stock throughput is recorded.
Cr John Larter, who attended the saleyards committee meeting, said users of the yards were overwhelmingly against the new monitoring system.
“They were more inclined to want further governance in place to monitor cattle movements,” Cr Larter said. “The issue of people not complying, I think, is pretty small. I don’t think it applies to all the agents.
“They thought that money could be better spent elsewhere.
But Cr Wright backed the council’s staff report and its recommendation to implement a monitoring system.
“We should stick to what the experts tell us,” he said.
“We employ these people, pay them a lot of money to do the work for us; we’d be doing the wrong thing if we don’t support them.”
The mayor, James Hayes, said the yards were an essential piece of infrastructure for the region’s cattle farmers.
“It’s fantastic they are used as much as they are … it would be even more fantastic if the people using them, paid to use them,” he said.
“This may impose an extra cost on the users. That probably shouldn’t be necessary, but has had to happen.”
Following 12 months of tracking cattle throughput, the council will make a determination on the ongoing operation of the yards.