Orient express: Council makes bold play for Chinese investment

TAMWORTH has put out the welcome mat in a move that could see a Chinese business chamber set up office here to drive foreign investment into this region.

In an unprecedented move, mayor Col Murray said Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) would write to Chinese authorities in a bid to attract Chinese investment into Tamworth and sell business opportunities to the Chinese market.

TRC sees unlimited opportunities in introducing these investors to our agricultural and food production industries, with a view to putting local and regional producers in touch with the vast Chinese domestic market.

But Cr Murray has been quick to defend his position on the positives of Chinese investment – he stops well short of agreeing to sell the family farm.

The new tack comes ahead of Tamworth preparing to host a sod-turning with the Chinese company that has bought the old Prince of Wales Park and the former Westons stockfeed factory site adjoining it for the Woolworths and Dan Murphy’s retail complex to be built there.

Cr Murray said the company had indicated the businesses could be trading at the site by next year.

The Everich company behind the development is now looking to increase its business profile in Tamworth to bring Chinese investment to town.

“Their intention is to set up an office and we would be a conduit or funnel to channel Asian investment opportunities into regional NSW,” Cr Murray said yesterday.

But before that could happen the company needed written support to go to Chinese authorities to back the move into Tamworth. 

“TRC is using its capacity or ability to connect business people. There’s a lot of industry in our area that could certainly expand with some good investment opportunities,” Cr Murray said.

“But with that I would very strongly say I’m not advocating selling the family farm to overseas interests. 

“We need to go into this with our eyes fully open and be professional and very sure we’re not exposing ourselves to risk. But the advantages of this are big opportunities.”

Cr Murray said Chinese investors had a strong interest in the Australian health status of animal production, our 

disease-free records, our plant breeding successes, and our capacity to reduce product costs.

Everich was revealed a month ago as the $30 million buyer of the retail complex from its Moree-based developer Theo Tzannes.

In a report to this week’s TRC meeting, Everich is said to be worth some $2 billion and a “significant integrated financial supply chain service provider” in China, based in Shenzhen, and operating since 2000.

“Tamworth would have an economic relationship with a progressive and expansive company with a willingness to invest, particularly in agriculture and food production industries,” the mayor said.

“Its foundation in supply chain logistics also has the potential to open doors to markets in China.”

Cr Murray said the Everich/chamber relationship was an important one to have in the Asian Century and the explosion of its middle class provided markets for a range of goods, including health, aged care, banking, tourism, financial services and education.

“The relationship would be unique in regional NSW and would help develop Tamworth’s reputation as a sound and progressive place to invest,” he said.

The TRC report underpinning the new deal has also identified dairy, broiler farms and chicken meat processing, freight and other logistics, and investment and finance as investment opportunities to point China’s way.

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