Editorial: Saleyards: Critics right, Collison wrong

Filed in Just In by July 25, 2023

THE sale yards is in the red for a further -$498,778 for the last financial year, keeping a consistent loss of -$500,000 year on year since the redevelopment (over-capitalisation) and we are exactly where Daryl Dutton predicted we would be three years ago with a -$1.5million loss. 

Mayor Collison and Council staff, despite their blind optimism have been proved wrong. In 2020, they vowed and declared:

“The plan is, in about a three year period, to bring that back into a break-even scenario and beyond that we want it to be a profitable enterprise,” said David Gatwood, former Council Business Services Manager.

Mayor Collison was even more optimistic, “I’d say it’ll take three years to get the numbers back to where we came from and then another two or three years to put that additional money back in off those losses and to me that’s still a good business case.”

Well, it’s 2023 people and that hasn’t happened!

But wait, Council has a new financial vision!

Council have moved the goal posts and changed their projections for the saleyards! Now they are predicting a huge turnaround in four years time, when user revenue doubles to $1,456,538! Once this miraculous turnaround occurs the saleyards will finally make a well-worth-the-wait return of…drum-roll please….$115,970!

Over the next four years though, Council predicts the sale yards will lose another -$575,021, meaning by the time we reach the holy grail of a $115,970 profit, we will have racked up losses of -$2,075,000.

If the profit is realised in four years time, it will only take 18 years of that profit to cover the losses sustained to date. This is well off-track from what Mr Gatwood and Mayor Collison projected. But perhaps year on year the sale yards will keep doubling revenue and pay it all off sooner? Not sure if there will ever be a ceiling effect considered in Council’s figures, but residents certainly have considered it. 

Cynically some residents have said they don’t believe Council’s projections are realistic, and explained the following:

  • people are selling their cattle in Singleton because it is cheaper;
  • people are selling their cattle in Tamworth because it is cheaper;
  • when the Merriwa-Willow Tree Road reopens more people will sell their cattle in Tamworth. I’m advised many are still driving their cattle past Scone to Tamworth now anyway, and
  • the interweb! More people are sending a drone up in their paddocks and selling their cattle online, dispensing with transport costs and cutting out the middleman for a better price. But Council’s gamble is farmers of the Upper Hunter won’t do this over the next 18 years as we claw back the losses already made.

Subsidising some things

The general manager is on the record as saying, “Council are supportive of all the business units that are subsidized like the saleyards…as they provide an essential community facility.”

Agreed, Council does need to subsidise some services, but at what cost and for whose benefit? There comes a point where the costs, outweigh the benefits for the Shire and its residents. I am fully supportive of Scone retaining the saleyards, but if Council can’t run them efficiently, and to date that is well out of their wheelhouse, then tough decisions need to be made.

Whereas, the Childcare Centre, which can turn a profit, can accommodate 57 children each day and is relied on for local families to work, that Council puts on the market.


Kind Regards,

Cr Elizabeth Flaherty

All of the above are my perspectives, opinions and beliefs as a Councillor on the Upper Hunter Shire Council, are my own, which may not (in fact probably don’t) reflect Council’s position, but which as an elected representative I am supported in law to freely express.

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