With construction tenders for the project due with the local Council early in October, local producers have only begun to learn the switch has been secretly planned without public notice of its intention.
“As vendors we are absolutely dead against the idea,” an irate Dennis Walker, a thirty year seller at the saleyards said. “We own the cattle and pay their fees. So we should have a say in the way our cattle are sold,” he said.
“I have found few people who know anything about the change and I know of some large and regular sellers who sold as late as last week and are also yet to learn.”
“They’ve kept it well hidden even the agents haven’t told their clients.
“The Council have called for tenders and they are due back within two weeks. They would have the plans drawn but when we inquire we’re referred to its website which has nothing about the upgrade or its plans”.
According to local news outlets Swan Hill Shire secured funding of $876,150 through the Federal Governments Stronger Regions Fund to complete the upgrade.
“We’ll be asking local member, Andrew Broad, to place a caveat on those funds if the selling method is to change,” said VFF Livestock chair and Swan Hill saleyard user Leonard Vallance.
“It’s an outrage they would contemplate change without consultation,” he said.
“It smacks of the Barnawartha saga over again.”
Swan Hill agents president Jason Pickering admits more could have done to better inform saleyard users.
“Our (on-scale) selling method at Swan Hill is only one step short of a post-weigh system. The cattle are weighed and sold immediately off the scales through a selling ring,” he said.
“The method is slow, cumbersome and labour intensive.
“At our last sale it took more than 7.5 hours to sell 1400 head. Its a long time for buyers to sit in the one position especially on cold days.”
Mr Pickering said agents believe if the pace of their sales can be increased, greater buyer participation can be generated which would lend to more cattle and the possibly of weekly markets at busy times through the year.
This would benefit both buyers and, especially cattle from the back country, the likes of Packsaddle, Tibooburra and Wilcannia, where transport is a factor and sellers have options of selling at Dubbo or consigning south to Swan Hill.
A public meeting to discuss the issue will be held at the Swan Hill Club, 5pm, Monday, September 25.
Mr Pickering said all saleyard users were welcome to attend.