Mayor calls for resolution as mill cash deadline looms


Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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DEADLOCK: State Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Carmeron Dick and Federal MP for Leichhardt Warren Entsch are at loggerheads over the Mossman Mill funding.

With time running out and a deadline looming for Far Northern Milling (FNM) to walk away from their conditional purchase of the Mossman Mill, Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu today entreated the state and federal governments to resolve their differences.

In a strongly-worded statement, she said: “For goodness sake, both sides need to refocus on what is critically important for Mossman.

“Rise above the politics and get on with supporting our local community and economy.
“Time is running out. The cane crush has commenced and our growers, mill workers and related businesses and contractors urgently need certainty.”

While the two levels of government grapple over where the respective funding should go – the state government has pledged $25m and the federal government $20m – tomorrow’s deadline to walking away is drawing close.

In a letter dated 29 May and addressed to Warren Entsch, the Federal Member for Leichhardt, Maryann Salvetti, Chairperson of FNM wrote: “The Board is tired of fighting and yesterday moved a resolution that if we cannot achieve the $? from the State funding for operations and cash flow, then on 14 June we will have no option but to walk away from purchasing the mill.”

But there does appear to be a glimmer of hope with the deadline being extended, based on Ms Salvetti’s interview today with the ABC.

In the interview Ms Salvetti said she is writing again to Minister Cameron Dick (Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning) “to impress on him the importance of accessing the $25m to keep the mill going, while sealing the deal with an investor on the bio-futures project.

“She indicated she’s also working with the federal government and is hopeful of achieving a commitment in the ‘coming days’.”

Although Entsch’s office continues to reiterate that their share of the deal has been met, the state government is looking for a specific promise to be kept by the federal government.

“The Queensland Government supports Maryann Salvetti and Far North Milling 100 per cent in working with the Federal Government to ensure they keep their promise to the Mossman cane growers, to provide operational funding for things like wages,” Minister Dick said in a statement today.

The breakdown of the state’s $25m funding agreement (Heads of Agreement signed on 24 December 2018) is as follows:

  • $10 million to upgrade the mill
  • $10 million towards the creation of a bio-refinery
  • $4 million for engineering studies and executive support
  • $1 million stamp duty relief

“We have kept our part of the deal. It’s now up to Warren Entsch to keep his part of the deal.

“At the request of the mill, I have agreed to consider the earlier release of funding for capital and maintenance to assist the mill, on the condition that Warren Entsch keeps his promise to wages.

“We will continue working closely with the Mill operators and the Federal Government to ensure a positive outcome,” said Minister Dick.

Minister Dick’s office said they hoped FNM does not walk away as this would be a concern. It is for this reason they are continuing to work with the mill.

What remains unclear is the federal government allocating funds for operational funding for wages. This appears to be the major stumbling block.

Entsch is currently overseas and was unavailable for comment.

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