Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Premier disappointed at Andrew Fairley Ave decision

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine says he will discuss a way forward with SPC Ardmona following Greater Shepparton City Council's decision not to close Andrew Fairley Ave.

DARREN LINTON June 12, 2014 3:53am

Shepparton road Andrew Fairley Ave will remain open.

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine has expressed disappointment at the decision not to close Andrew Fairley Ave to support SPC Ardmona.

Dr Napthine said the Victorian Government, which has committed $22million to help the food processor restructure and modernise its operations in Shepparton, will have further talks with SPC Ardmona in the wake of Tuesday night’s decision.

City of Greater Shepparton councillors voted 4-2 to keep the road open.

‘‘I’m disappointed Shepparton, which argued for government support for SPC, won’t close this road to allow SPC to get on with the productivity improvements they need,’’ Dr Napthine said.

SPC Ardmona said the road would deliver a three to five per cent efficiency gain because the company could take a ‘‘one-touch’’ approach to delivering fresh produce to new production lines.

Parent company Coca-Cola Amatil had more than matched the government contribution and a $100million modernisation of the plant was in the pipeline.

SPC Ardmona called a halt to that investment within minutes of the council vote taking place.

The decision has attracted criticism nationally and City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Jenny Houlihan conceded yesterday the decision would be frustrating to people who stood up for SPC Ardmona when it was fighting for government support and long-term survival.

‘‘We’re all up in the air as to what it means for SPC and 2000 jobs in our community,’’ she said.

The Coca-Cola Amatil board will determine the future of the investment program, but is yet to make a formal statement on the way forward.

Fruit Growers Victoria general manager John Wilson said the council decision was understandable, but might not be in the best economic interests of the district.

‘‘That remains a concern for us,’’ he said.

Australian Food and Grocery Council chief executive Gary Dawson said rejecting SPC’s application for the closure of the road was a major blow to hopes for the upgrade of the plant.

‘‘It beggars belief that Australia’s last big fruit processing plant, which is not only an important local employer, but also a strategic piece of national industrial capability, could once more be in jeopardy and this time because the local council fails to back the importance of local jobs,’’ he said.

‘‘It would be a tragedy if the massive customer, retailer, Victorian Government and Coca-Cola Amatil support for SPC is nullified by local government regulation.’’

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