AGRICULTURE has played a significant part in Geelong’s development since 1834.
As a result, our region remains an attraction for ongoing liveability, agriculture, business, and tourism.
It is important they remain so and that threats to environmental and economic sustainability continue to be managed.
Over recent decades there has been an ongoing trend for larger farm holdings to be sold off and reformed into smaller lots.
These farms, usually family operated, still have agricultural output and families are often subsidized by off-farm income.
But importing food and produce from far away is not sustainable or sensible.
Last November, Council endorsed in principle the development of a new Regional Livestock and Information Exchange Hub within the City of Greater Geelong.
It has always been understood that we would require co-contribution from various tiers of Government for this, and we need a detailed business case prior to its development.
I am pleased to say that last week, the Council resolved to proceed with the business case for this facility.
In the past four years a dedicated advisory committee made up of environment groups (Geelong Environment Council and BLG), Department of Agriculture officers (retired and current), two operating farmers, the livestock welfare and marketing sector, and biosecurity experts with National and international experience has been advocating to progress with a detailed business case.
They have advised that a modern facility would require about three hectares, and that it would have a soft floor, a roof, automated gates and scales and the capacity for going live for online sales.
It would cater for 120 cattle per sale and 1000 sheep and be a center for providing veterinary and other services as well as having a community shed where ongoing education and social well-being activities could take place.
A centralized and regulated livestock market would provide monitoring systems against biosecurity threats, such as foot and mouth disease, African swine fever and many others.
The effects of a biosecurity outbreak would not only impact farming, it would affect the whole economy.
Of course the old Geelong saleyards once provided a valuable but now antiquated service for regional producers.
One important and popular element of this facility was its Monday sales, as this was convenient for smaller producers.
But it is a service that is no longer provided.
Many producers have requested that this service be reinstated and if this project were to proceed then it would see that come to fruition.
In addition, many stock management activities such as drenching and veterinary services once done on-farm are now best offered as a centralized service.
Agriculture undertook a large revolution in the 19th and 20th centuries, but the policies of heavy fertilizer inputs are being superseded and scientific knowledge and applications continue to evolve.
We need to continue to share this knowledge as agricultural techniques evolve and develop and all producers need to continue to upgrade and share their knowledge.
This facility would allow that, and it ticks so many other boxes.
It supports the local economy going forward, it supports protecting and enhancing the environment and it supports education and services for new entrants to smaller farm and hobby operations.
If the business case doesn’t stack up, we won’t get government support and we will have to shelve the project.
But we owe this consideration of service to our Rural and Peri Urban Communities.
Cr Jim Mason
Bellarine Ward, City of Greater Geelong