Business

Region to miss out on $660m Mary Harbour project

Maryborough Sugar CEO Mike Barry with an artist's impression of the company's proposed $500 million Mary Harbour project at Granville on land that is now under sugar cane. Photo: JOCELYN WATTS 10m949
Maryborough Sugar CEO Mike Barry with an artist's impression of the company's proposed $500 million Mary Harbour project at Granville on land that is now under sugar cane. Photo: JOCELYN WATTS 10m949 Jocelyn Watts

MARYBOROUGH'S $660 million Mary Harbour project has been put on ice, with investor Mitr Phol signalling its intention to invest its money elsewhere.

It comes after a controversial sugar industry bill was passed in the Queensland Parliament this week.

The Sugar Industry (Real Choice in Marketing) Amendment Act, introduced by Katter's Australia Party and supported by independent member Billy Gordon and the LNP, was intended to allow cane growers to have a say in who marketed their product.

But Mike Barry, chief executive officer of MSF Sugar, which is owned by Mitr Phol, said the bill had created "uncertainty and discomfort" for the company and its shareholders, leading to the decision to put plans for the Mary Harbour development and expansions at the sugar mill on hold.

Mr Barry said funding for the project would now be redeployed in other countries.

He said he was saddened by the development.

"I put a lot of work into this," he said.

 

"It has all been put on hold."

Mr Barry said there had been no consultation with MSF Sugar from the Opposition before the bill was introduced in parliament.

"It's not clear where the industry is heading," he said.

The company would investigate whether it was workable to go ahead with the projects, he said.

"But it's not, on the face of it," Mr Barry said.

Mr Barry said the ramifications of the bill could mean costly pre-contract arbitration would be necessary between the mill and cane growers.

"The industry was deregulated, it's now becoming re-regulated," he said.

"It's creating investment uncertainty."

Mr Barry said the company made the difficult decision to explore other opportunities.

"There are other opportunities in other countries," he said.

When asked what it might mean for the future of MSF Sugar, Mr Barry said that it would impact on any possible expansion, with plans for a biomass plant now on hold.

Member for Maryborough Bruce Saunders said he was "absolutely gutted" by the news.

Mr Saunders made a speech in parliament on Wednesday night, issuing a warning about what the possible repercussions of the bill might be.

"It's a kick in the guts."

Mr Saunders said the legislation would go before the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for assessment, with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk saying the bill was "anti-competitive behaviour", putting jobs and investment at risk.

But even if the legislation was overturned, Mr Saunders said it could delay the Mary Harbour development by a further two to three years.

Mr Saunders said that if the Mary Harbour Project did not go ahead, it was likely that funding for Granville Bridge would be re-examined.

Mr Saunders said the bill could have serious repercussions for the future of Maryborough.

He said when people walked down the streets of Maryborough and saw the empty shops, they should think of the LNP.

"I don't know what we are going to do," Mr Saunders said. "Words can't express how I feel today. I warned that this would happen."

Sugar Industry Amendment Act

Brought before the Queensland Parliament by Katter's Australia Party

Supported by the LNP and independent member Billy Gordan

Opposed by the Palaszczuk Government because it rised trade ties and was anti-competitive

Supporters argue it will give canegrowers greater say in how their sugar is marketed

Topics:  fraser coast maryborough mary harbour sugar industry



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