The Midfield Meat Group’s plans for a new $25 million animal protein plant at Merrivale is good news for the economy and the environment.
It is fair to say that economy v environment debates rarely meet in the middle, but it seems this one does. Why?
Because as The Standard revealed earlier this week, if Midfield can proceed with its multi-million dollar plant at its McMeekin Rd headquarters, it should mean the end for the company’s current rendering plant at Levy’s Point Coastal Reserve.
It is no secret the existing plant has had its issues. Not only is its location somewhat shattering to the eye, it straddles coastal wetlands and precarious ecosystems, it produces a large amount of wastewater (albeit treated), its infrastructure is ageing and nearby residents have long endured its processing odours.
The Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Network has welcomed the announcement, saying “if the new facility was built with state-of-the-art technology that is much more environmentally sound”. The network is hopeful that if the rendering plant is removed, the site could be used for something “more environmentally sensitive”.
Given the recently released Belfast Coastal Management Plan proposes dune and beach areas at Levy’s Point for race horse training, perhaps some balance could be achieved here by regenerating the site in ways that are both a boon for the community and the ecological values of the area.
Midfield is keen to project as a good citizen by adding that community benefit is its “top priority”.
So there are encouraging noises from both sides of what is generally trench warfare.
But as The Standard has asked before, what is the long-term vision from here?
Midfield is to be congratulated for its act of faith and its desire to upgrade its technology around an important but environmentally burdensome industry.
It’s commitment to state-of-the-art integrated, fully closed systems for rendering protein from animal carcasses is a significant investment in the region, both in terms of infrastructure spending, downstream benefits and job creation and tenure.
But now the State Government, the Warrnambool City Council, Midfield and environmental and community groups must seize the opportunity to think over the horizon about the area and its future uses.
This then would truly be a win-win situation.