Mayor pleads with government to resolve Mill funding
Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu has issued her strongest plea yet by calling on both levels of government to ensure the future of the Mossman Mill.
This comes in the wake of an ultimatum by conditional Mossman Mill owners Far Northern Milling (FNM), who have threatened to walk away on 14 June if they cannot resolve their differences with the Queensland State Government.
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.
“We now leave the future of Mossman Mill in the hands of the Federal and State governments again and hopefully this proposal will be acceptable to both layers of Government,” she wrote.
Mossman Mill was originally owned by growers until Mackay Sugar Limited took it over 2012. In July last year, FNM and Mackay entered into a conditional contract for FNM to purchase the mill. It's believed FNM have until the end of this month to ensure the transition occurs.
FNM comprises Mossman Canegrowers, Tableland Canegrowers and Australian Cane Farmers Association.
If this fell through and FNM did in fact walk away on 14 June, it would have a devastating effect on the Douglas Shire. It would mean 160 people losing their jobs, 300 businesses closing, 500 people out of work and the entire shire council threatened.
Mayor Leu said she is strongly encouraging everyone to get in the same room and sort this out.
“Everyone needs to rise above the mudslinging for the sake of our growers, mill workers and the Mossman community. Let us move this project forward, not tie it down with bureaucracy and games.
“I remain optimistic and I encourage everyone to work together to deliver this project.
“It is critical for our economy and everyone involved in our cane industry that both levels of government put aside the politics and work together to make this happen, as a matter of urgency,” said Mayor Leu.
Both levels of government came to the Mill’s rescue when they agreed to commit $25m from the State Government and $20m from the Federal Government. However, both parties have been at loggerheads regarding the funding, how it will be used and questioning whether the funds have been made available.
And from the outset, the State’s support was focused on the delivery of the bio-precinct, with the Federal funding designed to support ongoing operations to allow the transition to occur. This was fully supported by Far Northern Milling, according to the State Government.
There are exciting long-term plans for the mill, which were revealed by FNM in July last year when they announced their intention to acquire the mill.
In their media statement, FNM said once the future of the mill is stabilised, the plan is to create long-term value by producing higher value products.
Rajinder Singh, from Tableland Canegrowers and a Director of FNM who has been leading the value-adding initiatives, said: “We have significant spare land adjacent to the mill where we plan to create the ‘Daintree Bio Precinct’.
“This will be an area in which we can provide infrastructure and renewable energy solutions so that we can create low impact, high value-adding processing facilities. Our initial focus is on green chemicals,” he said.
Bringing the mill under the ownership of the Mossman and Tableland growers will help create healthy generational change for the cane farming community, said Liza Giudice, a Director of FNM and Mossman Canegrowers.
“At present the uncertainty means older growers can’t retire because it is difficult to sell farms. So, this will allow transition which will be good for both younger and older growers,” she said.
“When Mackay Sugar announced last year that they would be selling Mossman Mill in order to focus on their Mackay assets, the local growers realised that the only way to secure the future of the mill and their farming businesses was to pool their resources and find a way to acquire the mill.
“The three bargaining agents representing the cane farmers, Mossman Canegrowers, Tableland Canegrowers and Australian Cane Farmers Association have worked closely together to form Far Northern Milling which will buy the mill,” FNM said in its statement last year.
The Douglas Shire Council has provided $250,000 to help Far Northern Milling cover costs of acquiring the mill. The payment also supports growers’ plans to create the ‘Daintree Bio Precinct’ to tap into renewable energy opportunities and create valuable by-products at a processing facility on the land adjacent to the mill.
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