SPECULATION is rife a closed abattoir at St George could be sold within a matter of weeks to a consortium experienced in meat processing.
Unconfirmed reports claim a group of Australian investors are currently carrying out due diligence investigations on the dormant abattoir, located six kilometres north of St George.
It is said the potential buyers intend to renovate the structure in order to process a few thousand head of goats and sheep per day for domestic and international markets, with cattle a future prospect, if the sale goes through.
The abattoir at St George has been closed since early 2009, when kangaroo meat processing operations ended under current owners Wattle Glen.
But if the rumoured deal goes ahead, it won’t be the first time sheep have gone to the slaughter at the St George site.
The abattoir was originally built in the 1980s to process sheepmeat before it was closed down in 1990.
Addressing speculation, Balonne Shire Mayor Donna Stewart did not confirm if council had engaged with a potential buyer.
But speaking to Queensland Country Life, Cr Stewart said the sale and resumption of processing at the abattoir would provide a much-needed economic boost to the region, which was struggling with the compounding effects of drought and irrigation water allocation buybacks “biting hard” on local businesses.
“There’s a lot of speculation in the town and you’ve heard it from a lot of sources,” Cr Stewart said.
“If the rumours are correct, it’s certainly the diversification that we’ve been seeking to strengthen the economic base in the Balonne Shire, away from water-related industries.”
She’s particularly keen to see renewed employment opportunities, explaining that the meatworks had “the capacity to provide up to 100 jobs” when last operating in 2009.
“The economic flow on through the community would certainly make local businesses more sustainable into the future,” Cr Stewart said.
“It would certainly encourage new businesses to establish to support the extra families it would bring to the town. It would certainly be a great boom to the real estate market too.”
Re-opening the St George abattoir would also provide livestock sellers with alternative options to the existing plants, Cr Stewart said.
The Wallangarra plant, 450km south-east of St George, processes both sheep and goats, while the Charleville abattoir, 390km north-west of the town solely slaughters goats; sourcing a substantial amount of its stock from the Surat Basin area.