Mass board exit new twist in markets sale

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Market City is being sold, but without a board after every member quit.
Camera IconMarket City is being sold, but without a board after every member quit. Credit: The West Australian

The entire board of the Perth Market Authority has quit at a critical point in the first of the State Government’s asset sales.

The resignations of PMA chairman David Thomas and four other board members are effective as of today. Another board member Grant Etherington had already resigned.

The mass exit comes two days after the deadline for binding bids on WA’s biggest fresh produce markets and with the Government’s timetable for completing a sale set to blow out well into next year.

An interim seven-member board chaired by Brian Easton has been appointed for a term of up to a year in the latest twist in the sale of the fruit and vegetable trading hub.

The board will oversee the running of the markets until the sale, expected to fetch about $120 million, is finalised

Legislation needed to clear the way for the sale is bogged down in the Upper House.

Labor believes it could gain the support of the Nationals to push an amended Bill back to the Legislative Assembly.

Nationals MPs Martin Aldridge and Jacqui Boydell hit out at parts of the sale legislation yesterday and it was again savaged by Labor. If the legislation is sent back to the Lower House, its passage will be delayed until at least next year unless Premier Colin Barnett takes the unlikely step of recalling Parliament.

The Perth Market Authority cannot run the Canning Vale operations for any length of time without a board under the terms of existing legislation.

The board resignations were not unexpected and follow previous delays in the sale.

However, it is understood the departing board would have been willing to stay on to ensure a smooth transition to private ownership if a sale had been completed within the original timeframe.

The Government moved swiftly to appoint the interim board, which includes former PMA general manager Peter Cooper but is otherwise light on for experience in the industry.

Agriculture Minister Ken Baston, who is responsible for the PMA, thanked Mr Thomas and the other outgoing board members for their valuable contribution.

“Each board member brought considerable knowledge and expertise to deliver an efficient wholesale market and support our fruit and vegetable industry,” he said.

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