Local News

The Broadwater Sunshine Sugar Mill. Image: Sunshine Sugar

Broadwater Sunshine Sugar Mill flood recovery works on track for the 2024 crush

Flood recovery and mitigation works at Broadwater’s iconic Sunshine Sugar Mill are on track to be completed for the 2024 crush, thanks to assistance from the Australian and NSW Government’s Anchor Business Support Grant Program.

Today, the stacks which tower over the Sunshine Sugar Mill billow steam, but two years ago the future of the historic mill on the banks of the Richmond River was uncertain after the 143-year-old mill experienced its highest ever flood level.

Broadwater Sugar Mill’s Operations Manager Ian McBean said at its deepest point there was three metres of water in the facility.
“All machinery, electrical switchboards and most outbuildings within that flood zone were either destroyed or had to be repaired or replaced, leaving a $25 million clean-up bill,” he said.
Utilising $12.6 million in funding from the Anchor Business Support Program, Sunshine Sugar started the massive clean-up – front of mind were flood affected cane growers and more than 80 staff that the company employs.

“Getting our factory up and running was critical to ensuring that those people had an income and dollars were flowing back in the community,” Mr McBean said.
“They [growers] had been significantly impacted by the flood with 90 per cent of our growers having lost their homes and equipment.
“A number of our employees were impacted by the floods, they are still living in temporary accommodation now.”

Funding was first used to remove mud from the plant and sugar storage facilities allowing work to recommission the massive crushing machines which power the mill.
“The critical works for us were getting the electrical switchboards rebuilt, installing new water tolerant modular buildings for offices and just cleaning the place up.”
Flood mitigation efforts have focussed on lifting important pieces of machinery, electrical switchboards above the one-in-one-hundred-year flood level, while new modular offices stand above the 2022 flood height.

One of the final tasks was installing a new molasses tank capable of storing 2,700 tonnes of product. This will replace the existing 3,000 tonne capacity tank which was lifted from its foundations by flood water.

In 2022, Sunshine Sugar managed to crush an incredible 408 kilotons of cane at Broadwater.
Funded mitigation works are on track to be completed by this year’s crush, which is forecast to be around 350 kilotons. The reduced cane volume this year is a legacy of the impact flooding had on the young cane in 2022.

Ian McBean is grateful for the assistance received from Government, saying it has been critical for getting their mill back to being operational.
“We are thankful and are sure this investment will pay dividends for the long-term flood recovery of the farming sector in the Northern Rivers.”

The $59.3 million Anchor Business Support Grant Program is jointly funded by the Australian and NSW Governments and has assisted flood-affected large businesses in the Northern Rivers to recover, rebuild and resume normal operations sooner.

Recipients matched government funding dollar-for-dollar.