Casino saleyards will be offered to the private sector for long-term lease following an unresolved stand-off between the shire council which manages the facility and local livestock agents.
A unanimous vote Richmond Valley Councillors on Tuesday night signalled a resolve to months of bickering between the council as landlord of the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange and the five livestock agencies that formerly used the facility.
There have been no cattle sales at the Northern Rivers livestock Exchange since the start of the financial year, after local agents refused to sign-up to new conditions regarding increased costs and handling of livestock after the fall of the hammer.
Earlier this month a public meeting held at the Casino RSM Club brought more than 700 people together in support of their selling agents, with few seeing things the council's way.
"Following the public meeting, a further attempt was made to reach consensus with the agents and re-open sales at the NRLX," stated council's general manager Vaughan Macdonald in a written report to councillors.
"This meeting was unsuccessful, marking the seventh failed attempt at seeking details to achieve a resolution. In these circumstances, it would appear that the likelihood of reaching a consensus is minimal and further attempts at resolution will only prolong the impacts on cattle producers who use the NRLX.
"Council now finds itself at the point where a long-term solution is required, to ensure that cattle sales can resume as soon as possible, and the NRLX continues to play a pivotal role in the regional economy."
Mr Macdonald told the assembled councillors that the facility, with a $28.5m replacement cost, would be offered to the private sector with a lease arrangement drawn up within three months for a term that could extend anywhere from five to 30 years.
At the core of the motion was the concern that Richmond Valley ratepayers were currently footing $60 a year for every rateable property to prop-up a deficit of $647,303.
Council mayor Robert Mustow said it was now time that users of the NRLX paid their fair share.
"Ratepayes want us to fix roads and solve the housing crisis not debate the cost of selling cattle," he said.
In a last minute bid to resolve the issue the Casino Agents Association emailed the council ahead of Tuesday's night's monthly general meeting offering to accept a 0.2pc increase in fees based on value of stock but council insisted there was more to the argument.
"Local councils can't do special deals with private business," Mayor Mustow told the assembly, which included a packed gallery of primary producers. "We can't turn a blind eye to ongoing safety and welfare issues.
"Council carries all the risk for non-council employees and this leaves ratepayers vulnerable. Our position is non-negotiable."
In the interim, the council will continue to explore avenues to reestablish sales at the facility, provided agents accept its current demands.
Mr Macdonald said: "Any future arrangement would need to ensure that the NRLX is wholly self-funding, without continued subsidisation by Richmond Valley ratepayers."
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