Massive $80m project to create hundreds of jobs

THE man behind a highly anticipated cannery for the Lockyer Valley says he is only weeks away from signing off on vital funding.

Lockyer Valley Cannery proponent Colin Dorber said he had secured $80 million from a private Australian source to cover the cost of the land, building, equipment and start-up.

Construction of the frozen and canned goods factory on 52 acres at Withcott could begin this year, with the plant operational by March 2022.

Mr Dorber said the breakthrough after nine years of setbacks was a huge win for growers decimated by the closure of Golden Circle in 2011.

"We are in the end-stage of negotiations for the funding," he told the Gatton Star.

"By mid-June we will have the funding documents finalised and signed and we will be shovel-ready 12 weeks from when the funding is received."

READ MORE: Revealed: Lockyer Valley cannery project timeline

Mr Dorber said the project would create 120 jobs in the first year and 400 jobs over three years at the processing plant and on farms.

He said he had "significant interest" from national retailers and major users of frozen and canned vegetables.

Mr Dorber said the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the importance of investing in Australian food manufacturing and offering customers products that were 100 per cent locally grown.

The project entails frozen products in stage one, followed by canning in stage two - with its own cannery - and a stage three vegetable powder production line.

Mr Dorber said the concept which uses modern technology was "fully ready" and a development application could be lodged "as soon as funding is finalised".

He said the development complied with land zoning and other regulations.

Mr Dorber the plant could straight away require ten to fifteen times more vegetable production from local growers.

Beetroot alone he hoped to see increased from "a few tonne" to 30,000 tonnes.

Lockyer Valley farmer Linton Brimblecombe praised the "tenacity" of Mr Dorber and his team and said the project would boost the prospects of local farmers.

"Anything that can assist in the production of produce in the valley is a good thing," said Mr Brimblecombe.

READ MORE: Cannery plan ditched for frozen food plant

"Good on them for having a go and working hard. Any domestic processing is a good thing.

"The sod is not turned yet but I wish them well."

Mr Brimblecombe, a grower of broccoli, onions, carrot and pumpkin, said the closure of Golden Circle when it was bought by Heinz and shifted to New Zealand had caused huge economic loss to the region.

"It was quite devastating," he said.

"I was a Golden Circle grower and there were about 13 in the Lockyer Valley and I can count on one hand how many are still farming."

Articles contributed today by Kat Donaghey were supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

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