Governments face stalemate over Mossman Mill funding
The Queensland State Government has called on the Morrison Government to make good on its $20 million commitment to the Mackay Sugar-owned Mossman Mill to ensure the future of the mill.
The state government stressed they will not commit to any funding until such time as the Commonwealth Government meets its commitment.
The Palaszczuk Government previously announced a support package of $25 million to Far Northern Milling to assist in the establishment of an innovative bio-refinery that would help underpin the long-term future of Mossman Mill.
In July last year, Far Northern Milling Pty Ltd entered into a conditional contract to buy Mossman Mill from Mackay Sugar.
The mill still belongs to Mackay Sugar, pending certain conditions being met along with meeting financial obligations.
Meanwhile, to transition the mill to a bio-energy and feedstock processing plant would secure the future of the Mossman community.
The state government’s package includes $4 million to complete the necessary engineering studies for the bio-refinery and to provide executive support.
In return, and championed by Federal Leichhardt MP, Warren Entsch, the Commonwealth Government promised $20 million subject to the completion of a positive business case and a significant contribution from the Queensland government.
Mr Entsch said the proposed project would not only transform the mill, but also the region, through technology and innovation.
“Building on the 560 jobs the mill already supports, this transition project is expected to create an estimated 86 new long-term jobs, which is a major boost for the town and region,” he said.
However, Newsport has learned that despite the aforementioned conditions being met, the state government has yet to be advised if and when the Federal Government will meet their funding commitment.
A spokesperson for the Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick, said Far Northern Milling and the Queensland Government are still waiting on confirmation from the Morrison Government that they will make good their commitment of $20 million, as without this formal funding, this project will not be able to proceed.
“Officers from the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning are currently working closely with Far Northern Milling to finalise arrangements to allow the release of the state government funding to support the engineering studies and executive support for the bio-refinery, contingent on the Morrison Government making good on their $20 million commitment.
“The Morrison Government committed funding on the condition of a completed business case for this project and a funding commitment from the Queensland Government.
“With both of those conditions now met, it’s time for the Morrison Government to keep up their end of the deal and release the funding they promised for this important Far North project.”
Mr Entsch, meanwhile, provided no indication as to when any money will be released and said he and the deputy prime minister were working through how the funds would be expended.
“There are a number of operational costs – where money will be required which will need to be addressed during the transition period – and we are working with the milling company to make this happen,” he said.
“I can assure the money is budgeted. But nothing has been deposited in the milling company’s bank account, and I am sure Minister Dick’s department has also not made such a deposit,” he said.
Despite the delay in funding, Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu remains confident both parties will keep their promises.
“As far as Council is concerned, both levels of government have committed a significant contribution to transform the Mossman Mill into a state-of-the-art bio precinct.
“It is fantastic to have this support and I am confident all parties involved will keep these promises,” said Cr Leu.
At the time of the state government’s commitment, Minister Dick said the Far Northern Milling intended to establish a bio-refinery that will provide a viable future for the mill and long-term economic benefits to the community.
“If successful, this project will result in the development of a bio-refinery in the Far North which uses the latest in green chemical technology, which is another strong and progressive step forward for the state’s bio-futures industry.
“This potential project will also diversify the Douglas Shire economy through the introduction of a considerable number of green chemical manufacturing jobs.
“Our government’s $25 million support package will materially benefit Far Northern Milling as they work towards finalising their business case, and, if successful, constructing the bio-refinery,” he said.
The Mossman Mill is one of four mills owned by Mackay Sugar. Their Farleigh, Marian, Racecourse and Mossman sugar mills process cane round-the-clock to produce raw sugar, molasses, electricity (made from renewable sources), bagasse (cane fibre used as a biofuel) and mud (insoluble solids).
The Mossman Mills maximum production is 1.1 million tonnes of cane.
Far Northern Milling chair and spokesperson Maryann Salvetti said she had nothing to add and was tied up in meetings when approached for comment.
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