Victoria’s largest cattle selling centre is set to relocate after a planning application was approved by the City of Wodonga council this week.
The approval gives the green light to Regional Infrastructure Pty Ltd to build a new $24m selling centre on a greenfields site at Barnawatha North, 20km west of Wodonga.
Regional Infrastructure Pty Ltd has leased the Northern Victoria Livestock Exchange at its current location at Bandiana on the eastern outskirts of Wodonga since 2008.
The proposal to relocate the yards drew strong opposition from sections of the Wodonga community, with 7000 people signing a petition calling for the yards to remain at Bandiana.
Cited concerns included the potential impact on retail trade in Wodonga on Tuesday and Thursday sale days, flood mitigation and environmental issues stemming from the new site’s location on the Murray River flood plain, additional transport costs and the loss of heritage attached to the existing yards.
Opponents had also indicated that a consortium of local investors was willing to buy the existing saleyards to ensure their future in the present location.
However after a long process of consideration the City of Wodonga Council voted 5-2 on Monday night to allow the relocation to proceed.
The planning permit has been approved with 46 conditions attached by water and power authorities, the Environmental Protection Authority, the Department of Primary Industries, VicRoads and the council.
In previous correspondence the council has stated that the proposed relocation would incur no cost on ratepayers.
It has also indicated that keeping the existing facility would have required an estimated $6m in expenditure on environmental and occupational health and safety upgrades.
Mayor Mark Byatt told the media the decision had been an extremely emotional one and the toughest decision he had faced in his time as a Wodonga City councillor.
Cr Byatt said that in reviewing the issue he noted that similar emotional debate had occurred in the mid 1970s when the Wodonga cattle yards were moved from the Central CBD to their existing location at Bandiana.
“For me personally it was something I agonised over and researched quite thoroughly, even going back to the records of the 1970 to 77 era with the move from CBD central to Bandiana, and interesting to note that in that discussion Barnawatha was the preferred supplementary site,” Cr Byatt said.
“Significant decisions like this are emotional times, there is no doubt about that, and as I said going back from the historical time of moving from CBD central to Bandiana, the emotion was around that period as a well and I respect that emotion, I respect our democratic right as a community to have a view, and I also respect the democratic rights of councillors to do their own research, make up their own views in getting to their decision.”
Those who lodged objections during the application process had 21 days from Monday to lodge further objections if they wished to do so with Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal.
The Wodonga selling centre has an annual throughput in excess of 200,000 cattle. The design for the new yards includes undercover facilities, elevated walkways, soft floors and a capacity to handle around 270,000.
In addition to the NVLX at Wodonga, Regional Infrastructure Pty Ltd also operates the Tamworth Regional Livestock Exchange, the Central Tablelands Livestock Exchange at Carcoar west of Bathurst, the Central Victorian Livestock Exchange at Delacombe south west of Ballarat and the Central Queensland Livestock Exchange at Gracemere south west of Rockhampton
The Bandiana Yards was bought by Pallisade Investments, an investment partner of Regional Infrastructure Pty Ltd, from the City of Wodonga Council in 2008.
It is understood the Bandiana site will be re-developed as an industrial estate.