After more than a decade of delays, the developers behind the controversial Ballarat saleyards relocation say physical works at the Miners Rest site will begin early next year.
It comes days after Ballarat City Council gave the green light to its Central Victoria Livestock Exchange Plan on Friday, despite a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing looming on the controversial saleyards relocation.
The council said works at the Sunraysia Highway site could start almost immediately, after it advised RLX Investment Company Pty Ltd, the developers behind the $23 million proposal, it endorsed the development plan.
Regional Infrastructure managing director Garry Edwards said once the first sod was turned early next year, the project was expected to take 14 months to complete.
Despite the development being built at the site of a flood plain, Mr Edwards quashed claims it was at risk of severe flooding.
“There are no flooding issues at the site,” he said. “Experts have reviewed plans for Central Livestock Exchange have found the development will create a net reduction in floodwater runoff from the site and therefore no risk of increased flooding in the local area.”
But the move has sparked widespread outcry from residents and stock agents fighting to stop the project in its tracks. Mick Madden is one of several livestock agents fiercely opposed to plan. “The whole process has been underhanded from day one,” he said. “Growers have been kept in the dark yet again.”
Mr Madden also questioned why the council would move to approve the plan during caretaker mode days out from a local government election. “You have to wonder why they (the council) have rushed it through again when there is so much at stake,” he said.
He said stock agents still had serious concerns about the viability of plan. Mr Madden argued the last RLX facility built at Wodonga reportedly cost $24 million for cattle yards alone.
“The saleyards facility in Ballarat is twice the size, yet they have less money to build it,” he said. But Mr Edwards said changes were made to the original design, including increasing the overall size from 65,226 to 69,974 square metres and minor amendments to the sheep facility layout based on stakeholder feedback.