FULL STEAM AHEAD: Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and mining magnate Gina Rinehart sign the Memorandum of Understanding which commits both parties to fully pursue the $500 million Mary Valley processing plant and South Burnett dairy farm. Contributed.
FULL STEAM AHEAD: Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and mining magnate Gina Rinehart sign the Memorandum of Understanding which commits both parties to fully pursue the $500 million Mary Valley processing plant and South Burnett dairy farm. Contributed.

Land of milk and money: magnate invests in region

HOPE Dairies signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Queensland Government on Saturday - committing both sides to pursue the creation of a $500,000 baby milk powder processing plant near Gympie and a 16,000-head dairy farm in the South Burnett.

A spokesman for Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting, Jason Morrison, said yesterday the "deal" was the culmination of a year's work.

"In a nutshell we have been talking to experts in the dairy industry and people who understand the area and its potential and some of its problems," Mr Morrison said.

"We think we have come up with a business plan that will allow us to make a premium product that will be accepted into China and, with our Chinese partner, will be a success."

Hope Dairies plans to process 150 million litres of milk each year from 2016, securing "a significant portion" of its milk from "local producers in the vicinity of its operations" to supplement its own supply.

Exports are planned to start in late 2016.

The construction phase of the processing plant at the Mary Valley Link Rd interchange with the Bruce Hwy will create about 350 jobs, and ongoing operations across the entire project will generate almost 500 more full-time jobs, Mr Morrison said.

Hope Dairies is majority Australian-owned by Mrs Rinehart with minority investment from China CAMC Engineering Co Ltd, a Chinese central government state-owned enterprise, Dave Garcia and Dano Chan.

Following the signing of the MOU on Saturday Mrs Rinehart said Australia had some of the finest agricultural products in the world and "we need to position ourselves to meet the demands of our region".

"Hope Dairies is majority Australian-owned and will produce a premium product that will be among the highest quality in the world from one of our country's finest dairy regions," she said.

"This is a significant and welcomed boost for the Queensland dairy industry and the investment will bring substantial employment and dairy processing capacity back to the state.

"Premier Campbell Newman and Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and their government have been very supportive with our planning and helped make sure that this project happened in Queensland.

"Hancock Prospecting is a wholly Australian-owned company that exports and invests substantially in this country and is pro Australia.

"We've had long-term involvement in the pastoral and farming industry from both my parents' families which I've continued, despite knowing this is a difficult industry in Australia, given high costs and government burdens.

"We love country people, always have, and hope our further participation can be of some regional assistance."

Mr Morrison said Australia's reputation and the Queensland dairy reputation was "incredible".

"And so we have this premium product, we have an avenue to get it there, we're going to do the complete value adding in Australia," he said. "It's processing, it's canning, it's exporting, right down to the marketing of it, so it's a real integrated program and strategy."

Mr Morrison confirmed the company had steadily bought suitable dairy farm land over the past 12 months but would not confirm exact numbers or locations in the South Burnett as some deals are yet to settle.

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