Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sid Sidebottom says Gippsland’s dairy and forestry industries have a positive future after spending three days visiting local dairy research and training facilities, the Macalister Irrigation District and key timber processing and manufacturing operations.
As Parliamentary Secretary with portfolio responsibility for forestry, dairy and skills and education in agriculture, Mr Sidebottom said he was very impressed with what he saw.
“The Gippsland region is home to some of Australia’s largest paper product manufacturers and wood product producers. These companies supply large volumes of fantastic products within Australia and around the world, employing hundreds of staff in the process,” Mr Sidebottom said.
“As a native Tasmanian, I am acutely aware of the challenges faced by the forestry sector in terms of growth for the future.
“The Maryvale and Heyfield mills are using innovative methods and thinking in value-adding to forest products – it’s because of this approach that the industry can look forward to a bright future, despite the current tough times.”
Mr Sidebottom also applauded Gippsland’s dairy industry for their educational and employment opportunities during visits to the National Centre for Dairy Education Australia (NCDEA) and the Ellinbank Research Station. He said Gippsland was fortunate to have a strong education and training centre like the NCDEA providing skills and knowledge for those seeking a fulfilling career in the dairy industry.
“I think the NCDEA model could be used as a template in other areas of agricultural skills development,” Mr Sidebottom said.
“Educational opportunities through NCDEA can start as early as secondary school, providing an excellent pathway for individuals seeking training and work in the area they live in.
"The cutting edge research into reducing methane emissions at Ellinbank was very impressive. In addition research looking at improvements to dairy cow nutrition and pasture management show how a facility based in a regional area can have national impact.”
Improvements to efficiency was also the order of the day at the Macalister Irrigation District where Mr Sidebottom joined Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester to inspect channels and flume gates to see the significant water savings that have already been made and the opportunities to make further improvements.
"Once again, leanings from here in Gippsland with the water savings from channel improvements and automation of the Macalister Irrigation District can be replicated in other irrigation systems around the country,” Mr Sidebottom said.
Visits to Murray Goulburn at Leongatha and Burra foods at Korumburra highlighted how regional Australia has an essential role in the success of Australia’s food processors.
“I was extremely impressed with Murray Goulburn’s pioneering and substantial renewable electricity project that is generating renewable energy and carbon credits using the methane in their waste storage,” Mr Sidebottom said.
“Burra foods innovative product mix is creating new markets for their business which is now exporting to Asia and the Middle East.
“More than 90 per cent of jobs in production and about half of food processing and manufacturing job are located in non-urban areas, so I’m delighted to be here to see Burra Foods and Murray-Goulburn’s operations and the work of the hundreds of people employed at these facilities.”
Earlier this year Burra Foods underwent a major expansion and installed a new milk powder evaporation, drying and packaging facility.
“Under the expansion, the number of local milk suppliers doubled to 150 and created 50 new jobs at the site, it’s inspiring to see industry participants investing in their own future and that of those who live in their region,” Mr Sidebottom said.