Sugaronline Editorial - Standing up to development By Meghan Sapp
Published: 10/20/2017, 12:33:00 AM
What's good for the goose is good for gander, but what about the breeding station?
Nobody likes a NIMBY; those neighbours who don't want to see any growth, any change, any development in their idyllic towns so vehemently oppose anything. Not In My Back Yard.
But then there are times when proposed developments can have such devastating effects on a community, or on an industry such as sugarcane, that one must stand up and say enough. That's what MSF Sugar did when the Queensland government sought to develop a new 840ha industrial area south of Cairns to support the growing tourism industry but with the potential to negatively impact MSF's operations.
MSF told the government during the public consultation period that the proposed State Development Area would limit future operations and potentially lead to the closure of the Mulgrave Mill in Gordonvale in an area where nearly a quarter of the population relies on the sugar industry for its livelihood. The company has more than A$150 million in planned investments including expansion in the exact area of the planned SDA such as a power plant a biorefinery. Not surprisingly, the company put a freeze on its investment plans until the situation was clarified, something that concerns cane farmers greatly.
But MSF isn't the only sugar player at risk. The Sugar Research Australia breeding station at Moringa is in the same area, with the northern part of the station’s property within the proposed SDA. The SRA believes the project’s developers forgot about the station completely when designing the plan. It’s the only breeding station in the country, located in the ideal place for the research that can take 12 years to develop a new variety, meaning that moving it is almost entirely out of the question. Even if it was just a matter of finding the funds to move, it’s not realistic.
But there's some good news to report this week. On Friday, MSF signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Queensland government guaranteeing "no net loss" of sugarcane land following months of negotiations. So with the company’s access to sugarcane land guaranteed for the future, it says it can move forward with its planned investments and the mill—and all those jobs supporting it—are no longer at risk. But though things look better for the company, no mention of the SRA breeding centre was made in the announcement regarding the MOU so its future may well still be in jeopardy.
As one of the funders of the SRA, MSF and the rest of the industry should work together to ensure the breeding station gets the same protection from the planned industrial development as MSF has negotiated with the government. It’s in the company’s best interest, as well as the industry as a whole.