Fresh hope for $60 million failed abattoir

A $60 million Western NSW facility, established with the promise of hundreds of local jobs and a major boost for rural economies, has, instead, sat empty for almost three years and only operated for less than four months.

Key points:Construction of Bourke's small stock abattoir was completed in late 2018, with $10 million in federal government fundsIt operated from January to May but closed due to goat supply issuesAustralian, family-owned business Thomas Foods International has bought the facility for an undisclosed amount

But now, there is fresh hope for Bourke's goat abattoir, with Australian-owned meat processor Thomas Foods International purchasing the facility for an undisclosed amount.

The company said it intended to upgrade the plant, constructed with $10 million in federal government funding, with the processing goats to start by mid-2022.

"We did look (to purchase) the facility 24 months ago, and at that time, we had quite a few other things on our plate," said Thomas Foods International Livestock Manager Paul Leonard.

"We always believed in the opportunity in Bourke."

He said there was a lot of investment in goats from producers in south-west, central Queensland, and western New South Wales, where there was exclusion fencing.

"We've seen the goat population grow again significantly over the last 24 months with the break in the drought and the good seasons.

"We've done the numbers, and we're very, very confident moving forward that it'll be a great success."

An image of the outside of the Bourke abattoir taken from the road
The Bourke Abattoir has been sold to Australian family-owned company Thomas Foods International. (Supplied)

Thomas Foods International's headquarters are in South Australia, with meat processing plants in Lobethal in that state, Tamworth, NSW, and Stawell, Victoria.

The abattoir was constructed by previous owners, CAPRA development, who faced legal proceedings from contractors.

"Our managing director Darren Thomas has been speaking with the government over the last 24 hours and had quite a few calls of congratulations," Mr Leonard said.

"I'm sure that that the government of the day that did invest would be pleased that their investment eventually has come to fruition.

He said the timing was not ideal for all those that invested in the initial build.

"What we're all looking here for is a long-term future, not medium-term," Mr Leonard said.

The company will recruit 120 new employees to run the Bourke site.

"We'll certainly encourage any local people in the Bourke Shire to go to our website for recruitment. We're keen to speak to local and new local people," Mr Leonard said.

"There's no doubt that right through the processing industry in Australia, there have been difficulties over the last 12 to 18 months through COVID, with lack of international workers, 457 people and backpackers etc."

"Hopefully, in eight months from now, the world may be a little bit different to what it is currently, and we're confident that we will get the people, but it'll be a challenge."

While there was criticism for previous "unrealistic targets"' for goat processing at the Bourke abattoir, Thomas Foods said it would not put a number on its expected output.

"Our intention is for Bourke to be an exclusive goat facility."

He said the company had other facilities for sheep and lambs.

Mr Leonard said the company would not put an actual number on its production targets.

"But suffice to say that we'll run the facility to the capacity of the goats that we can procure."

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Posted 6 Nov 20216 Nov 2021Sat 6 Nov 2021 at 4:02am, updated 6 Nov 20216 Nov 2021Sat 6 Nov 2021 at 4:15amShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp

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