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  • Crispin Till

    Email Crispin Till

    Changes to State Development Area a win-win for TNQ


    MSF Sugar and the State Government today signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will protect the sugar industry south of Cairns and clear the way for $150 million worth of planned investments at Gordonvale's mill.

    MSF Sugar and the State Government inked the MOU on the back of a deal to investigate the feasibility of developing potential industrial land adjacent to the Mulgrave Mill as part of the controversial Cairns South State Development Area (SDA).

    The MOU was signed by Treasurer and Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt and MSF Sugar chief executive Mike Barry.

    A key piece of the puzzle in signing the MOU was ensuring vital cane farming land would not be sacrificed for industrial developments and the promise of "no net loss" of cane land as a result of the SDA.

    Mr Barry said MSF Sugar was happy with the outcome of months of discussions.

    "We were very concerned when the SDA was first announced as cane supply is vital to our ongoing sustainability," Mr Barry said.

    "From Gordonvale to Babinda, in direct and indirect jobs, roughly one in four people are employed in the sugar industry.

    "It is a vital part of the local community and we are pleased we have had multiple talks with the State Government and have been able to communicate our issues and work through solutions." 

    $150 MILLION WORTH OF INVESTMENTS

    Mr Barry said the focus from both parties on no net loss of cane land was important with MSF Sugar needing certainty in cane supply to underpin investments in the future, including building a green energy park and a renewable energy power station.

    "We fundamentally are no longer concerned with the SDA proposal," he said.

    "We have clearly communicated with the Government and they understand but we will keep a watching brief on it.

    "We have $150 million worth of planned investment at the Gordonvale site, including a green energy power station and biorefinery.

    "Our investments are made on the basis of long-term protection for productive agricultural land in the region, and today’s agreement restores some certainty around security of land that is suitable for sugar cane production.”

    The proposed SDA was announced in July with the Queensland Government looking at a site north of Gordonvale around Wrights Creek. That announcement sparked concerns across TNQ about the potential impacts on cane farming and mill operations.

    Mr Pitt said potential industrial development of land adjacent to the Mulgrave Mill would be considered in addition to the existing proposed Cairns SDA, which would be reduced in size to offset the land area being proposed adjacent to the mill.

    STRIKING THE RIGHT BALANCE

    "The MOU sets out a balance between supporting the future industrial development of the region, while also ensuring the long-term protection of suitable land for sugar cane production," Mr Pitt said.

    "We consulted and listened to feedback and we have now developed an alternative proposal that, through a range of initiatives, meets the needs of one of the biggest stakeholders in TNQ and delivers the industrial land needed for future Cairns growth."

    The proposed Cairns South SDA intends to map out land for industry, infrastructure corridors and major public works to promote economic development in TNQ.

    The Coordinator-General who manages the assessments and approvals of infrastructure projects, including environmental and social impacts, is now undertaking further work on incorporating changes to the SDA such as updated mapping and further consultation with property owners and stakeholders in the area.