Member for Mirani Jim Pearce, Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert, Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt, farmer Phil Deguara and Bio Processing Australia executive director John Lockhart in the Mackay region.
Member for Mirani Jim Pearce, Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert, Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt, farmer Phil Deguara and Bio Processing Australia executive director John Lockhart in the Mackay region. Tony Martin

$50M Mackay project could go to South East Asia

A $50-MILLION biorefinery, touted as a future economic driver for Mackay, could be taken offshore, leaving the Queensland Government red faced after almost a year championing the project.

Bio Processing Australia had planned to set up its $50-million biorefinery in Mackay with $8.64 million in assistance from the government, but uncertainty around the local sugar industry and state utility prices have investors considering South East Asia as an alternative.

The company's executive director, John Lockhart, said a decision on the future of the plant could be made by the end of the month.

The sticking point appears to be the negotiations with Mackay Sugar over a lease to use power from the co-generation plant.

"We don't have any security over the supply of electricity, and if we are exposed to the higher rates then that could cause issues for the business," he said.

"We need clarity on what utility options are available."

Less than 12 months ago, Mackay was announced as the preferred location for the project; the then- Treasurer Curtis Pitt said the development would create 115 jobs and, more importantly, be "game changing".

But now, Mr Lockhart said there were no meetings planned with the State Government to sort through the issues and secure the plant before a decision.

It's taken Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert by surprise; however, after being heavily involved in the negotiations last year on getting the project here.

The Mackay MP said she understood that Bio Processing Australia had been finalising a lease with Mackay Sugar.

"This (utilities) is a new issue," she said.

Ms Gilbert said she'd expect Bio Processing Australia would come to the government to discuss issues like that.

"We don't just throw money around, this $8million-plus is a serious investment," she continued.

"I want that plant here."


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