Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan was a happy man last Friday when he got the word that four infrastructure projects in his electorate will be underwritten by the Australian Government’s National Stronger Regions Fund.
The Harwood mill and refinery topped the list, reaping $4.15million to upgrade the complex, which refines raw sugar from across the entire Northern Rivers region.
Sunshine Sugar’s CEO Chris Connors was a happy man, too.
“The Harwood project itself is $8.2million and is a part of an overall $16million project that we will be doing over the next three to five years,” Mr Connors said, with the additional $8million to be spent making improvements at the company’s other sites.
Mr Hogan said on Monday morning that the stronger regions money would be used to improve the sugar freight and logistics at the Harwood mill and refinery, which is one of four projects worth more than $11.3 million.
“More than 2,000 jobs exist because of the Harwood mill and refinery, according to the mill,” Mr Hogan said.
“This includes direct jobs, growers, drivers, etcetera: this grant means these jobs are now more secure.
“This investment into the mill and refinery is very important; it will increase their warehouse logistics, their storage capacity and, really, it is an investment into the sugar industry to make sure that we maintain our presence in the industry.
“Obviously the Clarence Valley and the Lower Clarence have a big investment in the sugar industry, we have 200 people working directly at the mill and 500 growers in the region.
“Therefore it’s good for everyone; not only the people who work in the industry, but for all small businesses and our region generally.
“These projects are game-changers and will create more jobs for local people and bring more money into our region for years to come.”
Mr Connors said that the stronger regions funding was the result of “a joint application by NSW canegrowers and Sunshine Sugar”.
“While the changes are being made are at Harwood, the application is a reflection on the fact that the growers and the mills (Harwood, Condong and Broadwater) are working together in trying to make our future sustainable,” he said.
“So if you look at it from that perspective, the project in itself is about giving us more efficiencies, particularly with the pressures that are coming on from international businesses and imported products.
“It’s all about sustainability for the Northern Rivers and, in this case, down at the Clarence Valley, with jobs at stake.”
The $4.15million, matched by Sunshine Sugar, will fund the construction of a new logistics warehouse, increase bulk storage silo capacity, and allow the moving of the packing facility to increase throughput capacity of the refinery and facilitate the production of more value-added refined sugar products.
The other projects announced by Mr Hogan are the redevelopment of the Northern Rivers Livestock Exchange in Casino ($3.5 million); the reconstruction of the Ballina marine tower ($850,000); and the creation of the Lismore Quadrangle, including a new Northern Rivers Regional Gallery ($2,850,000).
“Since I was elected I have been fighting to ensure there are local jobs for local people,” Mr Hogan said.