MSF Sugar has formally objected to a proposed Cairns South State Development Area (SDA) currently being planned by the Queensland Government.
The company, which owns the Mulgrave Mill at Gordonvale, has today lodged a detailed submission opposing the SDA on the grounds that if it proceeds in its current form, the SDA will limit future operations and potentially lead to the closure of the Mill.
The location of the proposed SDA, which is near Wrights Creek in Gordonvale, includes land from the Bruce Highway, west to Mackey Creek in the east, and from France Road in the north to Hall Road in the south, and encompasses over 800 hectares.
Given the location, MSF Sugar has raised serious concerns about the impact the SDA would have on the valuable, productive, and long-established sugarcane production area in close proximity to Mulgrave Mill.
MSF Sugar CEO Mike Barry said the proposed SDA, if declared, would have serious implications for MSF Sugar’s current mill operations and planned investment.
“MSF Sugar has some exciting expansion plans for Mulgrave Mill that will diversify revenue streams from cane supplied,” Mr Barry said.
“Over time, we aim to improve production to accommodate a whole range of new products and to facilitate this, our first project planned for the Mulgrave Mill is a green energy power station.
“Planned investment programs amount to an estimated $150 million, which includes investment in mill capacity expansion programs to accommodate the power station.
“Our investment decisions have been made on the basis of long-term protection for productive agricultural land in the region, and specifically in proximity to the mill on the eastern side of the Bruce Highway, south of Edmonton and north of Gordonvale.
“In its current form, the potential SDA poses a very serious threat to the future viability of the mill and our long-term expansion plans.
“We therefore urge the Coordinator-General to re-consider the location of the proposed SDA, and request an opportunity to collaborate with the Department of State Development on alternate solutions. This will ensure that any future declaration benefits the region, leads to more productive area under cane, and accelerates delivery of green energy projects that will ultimately create more jobs for the region.”
Mr Barry said any negative impact on Mulgrave Mill would have far-reaching impacts on the broader Mulgrave and Cairns communities – impacts that the company would like to avoid.
“Our mill employs more than 200 people directly during the season, generating over $100 million in output annually,” Mr Barry said.
“The negative social impacts arising from lost investment and potential mill closure would be catastrophic and result in increased unemployment and the loss of technical skills in the community.”
To support its objection to the potential declaration, MSF Sugar engaged Cummings Economics to undertake an economic and social impact study of MSF Sugar operations in the Cairns area.
Mr Barry said the economic and social assessment found MSF Sugar operations were directly responsible for 12% of employment in the Gordonvale and Babinda townships, and an estimated 23% of employment with flow-on effects.
“The assessment found that Mulgrave Mill’s operations are valued at $106.3 million while MSF Sugar and cane farming in the Cairns region have a direct expenditure of more than $70 million per annum,” Mr Barry said.
“With flow-on effects it is estimated that more than 700 jobs are attributable to our Mill and farming operations.
“If declared in its current location, the SDA puts all of the above at serious risk.”
Mr Barry said MSF Sugar’s objection to the SDA was based on the need to protect the cane industry, growers, milling operations and the communities that the industry supports.
“Cane is the lifeblood of Far North Queensland and as the predominant broadacre crop in the region, it plays a significant role in the region’s economy,” Mr Barry said.
“We believe the Queensland Government, in proposing the Cairns South SDA, has not properly taken into consideration the current and future value of the industry. We therefore call on the Coordinator-General to not formally declare the SDA over the selected area and to collaborate with MSF Sugar on alternate solutions.”
MSF Sugar has requested an opportunity to make a presentation to the Coordinator-General before any recommendation or decision is made on the SDA.