Bundaberg Region Mayor Jack Dempsey says Bundaberg Sugar’s decision to close Bingera Mill reflects the ongoing transition away from sugarcane into other higher-value crops.
While not being a surprise, Mayor Dempsey said the State Government needs to support Bingera Mill workers and farmers.
He said with the State Election being held on 31 October, candidates and parties should deliver a jobs package to assist workers.
“We’re seeing a number of solutions being put forward for Maryborough but now we need a jobs package for Bundaberg,” he said.
Bundaberg Regional Council and Bundaberg Sugar made a joint submission to the State Government in August last year seeking a structural transition package for the local sugar industry to diversify, add value and secure jobs.
Mayor Dempsey wrote to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with a proposal to enhance the long-term future of the industry and provide future jobs growth.
“Similar to the $45 million that was pledged by the state and federal governments in Far North Queensland, we asked that support be provided by the State Government for the Bundaberg Region sugarcane industry,” he said.
“We asked the state to establish a structural transition capital fund to support capital investment projects necessary to grow and transition into new sectors, products and commercial opportunities.
“Such a fund would create new jobs new, sustainable, high-value jobs in diversified sectors, including bio futures.”
Mayor Dempsey said Council supported Bundaberg Sugar’s proposal to invest in a new retractable bridge that would enable cane to be easily transported across the Burnett River and make the Millaquin Mill’s operations more efficient.
“Bundaberg Sugar has been active and innovative in making sure the business remains contemporary and profitable,” he said.
“They’ve diversified into sweet potatoes, macadamias and organic products, and opened up new markets in the Middle East.
“The company purchased 645ha of macadamia orchards last year, which has contributed to rising agricultural land values and boosted confidence in the sector.
“I’ve got no doubt Bundaberg Sugar will continue to be a significant investor in the region, but in the short term we need support for workers to re-skill and for farmers to diversify.”
Future uses of Bingera Mill considered
Mayor Dempsey said the decline of sugarcane highlighted the critical importance of future water security.
“Affordable, accessible and reliable water is essential for horticultural crops and trees,” he said.
“That’s why we need a guarantee that water lost from Paradise Dam will be reinstated and not be diverted away from the Bundaberg Region.”
Mayor Dempsey said Council will continue to work with Bundaberg Sugar to identify other future uses for Bingera Mill.
“This could include a bio-refinery or other employment-creating opportunities but state investment will be required, similar to what was provided in Far North Queensland,” he said.