WARRNAMBOOL City Council (WCC) will undertake a complex process before it makes any decision to sell its Scott Street works depot to the Midfield Group for the site of a proposed milk powder manufacturing plant, WCC chief executive Bruce Anson said.
Mr Anson said the council will first need to acquire the freehold title of the land from the state government.
“The land could then be sold by the council,” he said.
“Before that can happen, there is a detailed process which the council would need to undertake before it made a final decision on the sale of the land.
“But we would advertise our intention to sell the land to Midfield,” Mr Anson said.
A decision would also be required on the rezoning of the land from public use to industrial and the issuing of a planning permit, he said.
“If we proceed with a land acquisition, we will request that the state government make an independent ruling on the rezoning and assessment of planning and building applications in order to resolve the possibility of a conflict of interest, which could arise should the council be both the land vendor and planning authority,” Mr Anson said.
Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh said the Midfield expansion was “extremely exciting given the potential it holds to create a large number of jobs in Warrnambool”.
“And it has come at a time when jobs in manufacturing and processing have been in decline elsewhere in Victoria.
“Meat and dairy processing builds on the strengths of the region and aligns with the federal and state governments’ vision for Australia as a significant food producer for export markets.
“Strategic documents such as the federal and state food plans, Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, and the Great South Coast Regional Growth Plan identify food production and processing as a key future direction for regional growth and prosperity,” Cr Neoh said.
The Midfield Group is one of the region’s major employers.
It presently employs 1100 staff throughout Australia and directly sources meat from 3500 farmers statewide.
Midfield managing director Colin McKenna said he believed the south-west, with its reliable weather, was still “untapped” in its ability to produce food for export.
He said the proposed milk powder facility aimed to utilise the strong connection between the dairy and milk processing industries.
Any growth in the dairy industry would provide more livestock for meat processing.
“Milk means meat,” Mr McKenna said.
Premier Denis Napthine said domestic and overseas demand for meat and meat byproducts manufactured by the Midfield Group had increased steadily during the past five years, particularly in the growing Asian and Middle Eastern markets.