Government dumps Labor's $2m Casino saleyard commitment

RICHMOND Valley Council may be forced to pay at least $2 million to keep the Casino saleyards operational after the Federal Government ditched a pre-election Labor commitment to fund a full upgrade of the exchange.

The $8 million upgrade was promised by former Page MP Janelle Saffin before the election was called, technically under Round 5 of the Regional Development Australia Fund.

RVC general manager John Walker said the council was advised the funding was not dependent on the election result.

But following the Coalition victory, Nationals leader Warren Truss announced promises in Round 5 of the RDAF would not be honoured, instead launching the freshly branded Stronger Regions Fund.

Before the election we believed we had money for a saleyards, money for an indoor sports stadium, and money for the hospital. But after the election, none of them were funded.

New Page MP Kevin Hogan has promised to "advocate strongly" for the saleyards in Canberra, but the minimum 12-month delay may now scuttle the entire project.

"We stand ready to start building it tomorrow, but if we don't get the money there's every likelihood it will not proceed," Mr Walker said.

"Before the election we believed we had money for a saleyards, money for an indoor sports stadium (also under Round 5), and money for the (Casino) hospital.

"But after the election, none of them were funded. So what's the Coalition doing for us?"

As one of the biggest saleyards in NSW, Casino now needs to address critical animal welfare and workplace safety issues, worth at least $2 million, if it is to remain operational long-term.

RVC ratepayers have voted the project their number one priority in a community survey.

President of the Casino Auctioneers Association Neil Short said the saleyard upgrade had the potential to transform Casino into an even bigger regional selling centre.

In 2011/12, he said roughly 120,000 head of cattle were sold through Casino; at an average price of $500 a head the total sales were worth $60 million.

Even a small rise in volume had huge impact on the local economy, allowing graziers to plough money back into maintaining or upgrading their farms.

Topics:  casino saleyards federal government richmond valley council