After years of unavoidable delay and multi-million-dollar cost increases, progress on the Gunnedah Saleyards redevelopment was literally airborne on Wednesday as the first components for the facility’s roof were lowered into place by helicopter.

The progress comes after extensive delays due to several issues including the requirement for a new turning lane at the saleyards facility – now valued at $27 million.

Gunnedah shire deputy mayor Rob Hooke said council lodged its turning lane application with Transport for NSW two years ago but only now has it been approved.

A Transport for NSW spokesperson said the timeline for the turning lane project was affected by many variables that ensured delivery of a “safe and efficient” intersection.

“The design was made more complex due to a number of factors, including utility relocation and proximity to property boundaries,” the spokesperson said.

“During development, a modification to the original consent was required and this extended the time taken for development and construction.”

It is expected council will undertake the work on the turning lane, saving some cash in the overall project.

But the intersection works will still cost about $750,000 to build, according to Gunnedah Shire Council director planning and environmental services Andrew Johns.

This included the design, project management fees and relocation of power poles.

A helicopter hovers over the Gunnedah Saleyards on Wednesday morning. Council said the aerial work included installation of the steel structures that will form the foundations for the roofing and the builder made a commercial decision to install roof columns via the air.

Council said these funds were budgeted within the overall project cost and work is set to begin in the next few months on the turning lanes for entry and exit of vehicles from the access road.

Total costs for the saleyards have increased from $17 million a few years ago – this included about $14 million in state government funding to now $27 million.

There is also a new timeline for expected completion of the saleyards project.

In February last year, council anticipated the saleyards redevelopment would be complete by late 2023 or early 2024.

It is now anticipated the saleyards redevelopment would be completed in December this year.

As the saleyards roof work took flight early on Wednesday morning, the Kamilaroi Highway was partially closed to traffic to allow work to be completed. The weekly Tuesday sale at Gunnedah was also cancelled due to the activity early in the week.

Mr Johns said the new saleyards would form an important part of Gunnedah’s future industry growth.

“The Gunnedah Saleyards redevelopment reached an exciting new stage this week with the installation of the steel structures that will form the foundations for the roofing. This is a large and complex project, and the builder made a commercial decision to install roof columns via the air,” he said.

“The $27 million saleyards project will make this a state-of-the-art facility that not only caters to the important industry of today, but prepares for growth in the future.

“The timeline of the project has been affected by many variables including an ongoing shortage of suitable design consultants, the complexity of the design including relocation of power poles and other spatial issues in relation to adjacent property boundaries.

“Due to this delay, council requested a modification to the development application to allow sufficient time to have the intersection designed and constructed without causing delays to the project, but this was not permissible at the time.”

Gunnedah Shire Council said Gunnedah’s livestock selling centre is rated among the top four in NSW.

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