TAMWORTH mayor Col Murray has appealed to Premier Barry O’Farrell to streamline the planning and approvals process for big business to increase their investment and development in the city.
Cr Murray’s bid, at a meeting with the Premier on Tuesday, comes after two national food processing companies, with the potential to create 1500 jobs over the next five years, made it known they want to establish their businesses in the city.
One of them is believed to be the poultry meat industry, centred by the industry giant processor Baiada which has long held business plans to expand and increase its stake in this area.
The new Central North Poultry Innovation group last night confirmed that the industry cluster here, which accounts for something like 800 employees in meat production but a total 1200 in all things poultry-related, wants to grow the sector and that includes future investment of up to $500million over the next few years.
Spokesman Peter Pulley last night confirmed his group had had ongoing discussions with Tamworth Regional Council about the prospects for industry growth and the economic benefits that hinge on Tamworth support.
Mr Pulley said approving future applications for more sheds, a mega abattoir, and allowing the numbers of growers to grow, were fundamental to industry growth and more for Tamworth cementing its place as a major food producer.
“If Tamworth can get a mega abattoir we’re looking at something like half-a-billion dollars in investment here over the next few years. It won’t happen overnight but it can happen and that’s why we have been meeting with the council. We’re keeping them up to date with our industry.”
Baiada is believed to be waiting on approval for a new abattoir out near the Glen Artney industrial estate. If that gets approved, it is almost certain that the family-owned company would vacate its Out St production hub off Bridge St in West Tamworth – and it would give Baiada greener credentials and pave the way for the industry and subcontractors and service providers to increase their job prospects.
This week’s meeting with Premier O’Farrell included Cr Murray, general manager Paul Bennett and assistant general manager Peter Thompson who lobbied the Premier to make the approvals process for big business more “user friendly”.
Mr Murray said it was the result of the industry interest and “other ongoing frustrations.”
“We have had a number of discussions with food processing companies over a number of years and it’s becoming evident there are a lot of opportunities for the Tamworth region there if we can make the approval process better for its users,” Cr Murray said.
“Council is in advanced talks with two major, national food processing companies at the moment and we were spurred on to help make these changes because of their interest.”
Cr Murray said council was determined to ensure the Tamworth region didn’t miss out on big employment and industry growth opportunities because of “hurdles that shouldn’t exist” when seeking business approvals.
“Investing in the food processing industry is a logical step for the Tamworth region,” he said.
“It is a big job creation industry, it’s not like mining where things can ebb and flow, it’s long-term and when it has been established it is something that really strengthens the local economy.”
Cr Murray said the Premier had been understanding of council’s plight.
“He recognises the challenges regional cities like Tamworth are facing,” Cr Murray said.
As a result of the discussions the Premier encouraged and gave his support to members of TRC working with the Department of Premier and Cabinet to come up with ideas that may help speed up the approvals process.
“This is a problem not just in Tamworth but across the state,” Cr Murray said.
“(Premier O’Farrell) wants us to help actively look for solutions and work with the state government to put some of our ideas into practise.”
Cr Murray said essentially the problem for Tamworth, and other regional cities, was the number of hurdles larger businesses needed to jump in the approvals process.
“It can be very difficult for approvals to get through under the current system,” he said. “We’re not suggesting the process be easier as such, but we are asking that the path for approvals becomes more user-friendly for the people travelling it.”