A meat processing facility proposal for the Northern Territory reached another important milestone on Friday following a development planning hearing in Darwin.
The Australian Agricultural Company-backed proposal for a packing plant 50km south of Darwin marked another step in its regulatory approval process following Friday’s hearing over an earlier application for an exceptional development permit (EDP). The lodgement followed an extensive period of public consultation.
In a press statement issued Friday afternoon, AA Co managing director David Farley said the project would provide a major boost to the NT economy, creating 230 jobs during construction and 270 during operation. The plant would have a capacity to process 1000 cattle daily for beef export to markets in the US, Europe and Asia.
Producing boxed manufacturing beef, hides and rendered products, the facility would become one of the largest employers in Darwin’s rural area and generate new industries in the Top End, Mr Farley said.
It also provided northern cattle producers with an extra market outlet in addition to live cattle export, AA Co’s statement said.
“Having a local processing facility in northern Australia would reduce the need for long distance transport of cattle, ensuring improved carbon, welfare and productivity outcomes for the northern pastoral industry,” Mr Farley said.
In addition to planning approvals, AA Co is continuing to pursue the environmental assessment process and seeking Australian and NT Government support in the form of upgrades to public infrastructure which would facilitate the project and also be available to broader industry and the community.
“A project of this size and scope means necessary upgrades to existing infrastructure or new infrastructure such as roads, transport facilities, essential utilities and community services,” the company statement said.
AA Co had calculated a need for 134 new refrigerated container points at the Port of Darwin, new railway sidings, improved rail crossings and upgrades to electricity, water, gas and telecommunications access.
Observers say there is little likelihood of the project getting off the ground without the required Government support.
There was also a need for new local community facilities including health, child care and training services, AA Co said.
“We are looking to further discussions on how the public infrastructure can be provided as we work through our due diligence process,” the statement said.
Senate inquiry supports principle of northern works
Mr Farley noted that the Senate Committee report on the live export trade tabled in Federal Parliament last week welcomed current initiatives to establish meat processing facilities in northern Australia as way of helping to diversify the northern pastoral industry, and would complement the live export trade.
The Senate report noted evidence that such facilities were unlikely to be established without some form of government assistance, and also acknowledged that government support for these projects was ‘fully justified’.
The report also noted that the establishment (or re-establishment) of processing facilities in northern Australia was not without significant challenges.
“For such an enterprise to be viable, it must have a reliable source of labour, a secure supply of livestock and be able to adapt to the seasonal nature of production in northern Australia,” it warned.
“The committee encourages the industry and all levels of government to continue to investigate options for the development of commercial processing streams within northern Australia in addition to existing live export markets.”
Mr Farley said the Darwin project remained on track, subject to government approvals and government infrastructure funding being granted. The AA Co board would then be in a position to consider the appropriate capital structure and to ultimately consider project endorsement.