A Chinese investment group, Flinders Shire Council and NorthBEEF could sign a binding agreement this month which could see a meat processing plant in Hughenden become a reality as early as 2018.
A trip to China in October saw Flinders Shire Council mayor Jane McNamara and NorthBEEF chairman Rob Atkinson establish a relationship with the CNVM investment group.
Previously known as DSCY, the investment group spent the last four months undertaking a restructure to cater for the project.
Now established with an office in Sydney, CNVM has begun constructing a team for its sole project, the Hughenden meat processing plant.
Mayor Jane McNamara said the trip to China was the pivotal point for the processing plant.
“This project has been on council’s cards for about 10 years but has just been bubbling along,” Ms McNamara
“We learnt firsthand that the Chinese like to work with people that they know, trust and have a good relationship with, so to go over and establish that connection was a step in the right direction.
“We cemented a relationship between ourselves (council and NorthBEEF) with CNVM and they then introduced us to all their partners over there including manufacturers, importing, freezing and cold storage representatives.”
The investment group is now in the process of meeting the legislative requirements and constructing a design and application with the Foreign Investment Review Board.
The proposed 900 hectare project is expected to create 250 jobs when complete.
The meat processing plant will focus on segmenting the carcasses, snap freezing and sending them out of Townsville, with about 180,000 head a year.
Ms McNamara said some locals had been skeptical of the project from the start.
“In 2012 there were proposed meat processing plants for Cloncurry, McKinlay and Charters Towers but we have been fortunate enough to secure an investor.
“Because the memorandum of understanding was signed in August 2015 some feel the project has slipped away, but we well and truly have the ball rolling.
“It has just taken a long time because we are dealing with Chinese Government and Australian Government at federal, state and local levels.
“People just need to understand that you can’t just build a meat processing plant overnight.”
It is also understood that the meat processing plant could be expanded to include a feedlot.