JOBS BOOM: Ag precinct a step closer to reality
A PROPOSED agricultural precinct, which would be a major boon for jobs and investment in the Scenic Rim, is one step closer to becoming a reality.
A 40ha site on the Cunningham Highway in Kalbar will be turned into a dedicated hub for food and beverage processing, packaging and distribution, if approval is granted.
The $50 million Scenic Rim Agricultural Industrial Precinct, proposed by major vegetable producers Kalfresh, is now open for public comment.
It is estimated the initial stages of the project will create 126 full-time jobs during the two-year construction period and 60 full-time jobs during its operation.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told parliament this week her government was progressing approvals to develop the precinct.
Queensland's coordinator-general declared it as a co-ordinated project a year ago.
An initial investment of $26 million is needed for site development, including the construction of sewage and water treatment, and $19 million to build a bio-energy facility to power the site by converting food waste into gas.
Subject to third party investment, the project has the potential for further capital investment of up to $230 million by attracting other food production and manufacturing businesses, with several parties already registering their interest.
It is estimated this additional investment would create up to an extra 500 construction jobs and up to 400 operational jobs when fully developed.
If the funds are invested to fully realise the vision, it is expected 1100 direct jobs and 900 indirect jobs will be created.
An economic benefits study completed for the draft impact assessment report lodged with the co-ordinator general revealed the fully developed precinct would add $140.5 million operational gross value to the Scenic Rim economy annually.
A cost-benefit analysis showed the precinct would deliver a net value of $279.6 million to the region and that for every $1 invested, another $6.90 in benefits would be realised locally.
Kalfresh CEO Richard Gorman said it was very encouraging to get to this stage and believed the precinct could "reinvigorate" the food manufacturing and processing sector.
He said the positioning of the site so close to large, and growing, population centres in the south east corner was ideal.
"A lot of work goes into making sure we've covered all the bases," he said.
"It's good to be out in the public domain.
"It's quite exciting because the jobs created through these industries are good solid jobs in the local region and for people to move to our region too.
"Our local area has been home to a butter factory, milk processors and a canning factory.
"We want to return to this concept of value-adding the raw ingredients in the region where they grow, to create employment opportunities for local people and diversify the opportunities for local farmers to sell their produce."
Mr Gorman said the initial $50 million development would take up about 30 per cent of the site with the rest left open for other parties.
"With approval, it will come with some conditions," he said.
"We're not assuming anything there. We've got to see what comes our way and deal with those.
"But that's months' worth of work, not a year's worth of work, hopefully.
"Once that process is finished, there will be some certainty for us to invest. Our intention is to invest immediately.
"As soon as we're confident we can move dirt, we will, and we also have immediate plans to build two more packing facilities (at a cost of $5 million)."
Pivotal to the proposal is the bio-energy facility.
Mr Gorman said the anaerobic digestion co-digestion model is widely used in agricultural regions in the United Kingdom and Europe and would be an Australian first.
It would be capable of diverting almost 40,000 tonnes of waste from landfill annually to create electricity, as well as commercial-grade organic fertiliser for use in cropping.
"We will be going out to the local regions to investigate organic waste options for our renewable energy plant," he said.
There are also plans for an agriculture and farming museum and education centre to be built.
A draft impact assessment report has been lodged with the co-ordinator general and is available for public comment until June 26.
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