A PROPOSED milk processing plant for Cohuna passed another two milestones last week when it was granted Environmental Protection Agency approval and a planning permit.
The $130 million No Bull Milk Processing Pty Ltd project, which will be capable of processing 300 million litres of milk annually, will now move forward to more detailed discussions with investors according to director John Mawson.
"We have satisfied all the requirements now from an EPA and planning perspective to be able to build the proposed plant. Now we progress with potential investors — that's coming on along a number of fronts," he said.
The project will be constructed at Cohuna's Keely Industrial Estate and has received support from federal, state and local governments — most recently in the form of Gannawarra Shire issuing of a planning permit last Friday.
Shire economic development officer Roger Griffiths said this meant the location and the majority of regulatory issues around the project are now secured.
"The planning permit has been issued and that's another major step forward in working towards the establishment of the factory," he said.
"Now there is a lot of behind the scenes work happening regarding the securing of investors for the project, and as this is firmed up that will then start to provide some direction for some of the other important aspects of the project, such as securing milk supply."
It is hoped the plant will be ready to take milk by mid-2020, and will create 60 jobs annually, according to Mr Mawson.
"That includes indirect jobs like transport and maintenance functions. It may be more or less than that depending on the scope of the plant and what packaging is done here," he said.
An estimated 70 jobs will be created during the construction phase.
Mr Mawson hopes the project will reinvigorate the dairy industry in the region.
"We recognise it's a time of upheaval and disruption in the dairy industry and we're hoping this new processing plant will provide an option for continuity and stability in the region, and that local farmers will respond to that," he said.
"Hopefully farmers will be in a position to increase their production based on what we see as a strong export demand for finished powdered milk products."
Mr Mawson also said he was very conscious of the industry's current struggles and that No Bull is seeking to ensure the best outcome for farmers.
"We understand this is all about milk prices, so the finished product price has to be strong enough to allow for a strong price for farmers," he said.
"We appreciate it's not getting any cheaper for water and feed, and dairy farmers need to be able to get a good return on their labour and capital: we're conscious of that and of having that discussion with investors so they fully understand the long-term nature of a dairy farming investment.