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Monday 31 August 2020

Manufacturing is a sector that has significant potential for regional areas in a post COVID economic recovery period. Government and business have now realised that Australia must look to domestic production to ensure its own supply chains are secure.  This means less reliance on cheap imports and greater emphasis on Australian made products.

This does not mean a return to the large format labour intensive factories of yesteryear which are clearly not competitive in 2020.  Our strengths are in smaller specialised manufacturing which involve high tech products being produced with maximum use of automation such as AI controlled robotics.  Many local manufacturing success stories have already demonstrated how enterprise, innovation and  technology combine to create that winning formulae.

Local businesses such as Bale Defence Industries, HF Hand, Birdon Marine, Eastland Trusses, Expressway Spares, Trailer Factory and many others are long standing successful, local enterprises who employ local people, produce a wide range of products and export outside the area.  The renewed push for self reliance gives us an opportunity to build on these successful businesses to attract more diverse manufacturing to the area.

Medical equipment and pharmaceuticals production has potential with high demand  for PPE and drug production under licence being considered for regional growth areas.  A prime example is the Sherparton based company now producing PPE to supply high demand driven by the COVID pandemic.  The Port Macquarie area has positives such as proximity to Sydney/Newcastle, highway links, relatively cheap land supply along with a large base hospital, university and medical training facilities.

With some assistance by governments and private investment a medical or drug company could establish in this region to produce a range of PPE, medical supplies and drugs.  There are obvious benefits to having high tech sustainable manufacturing in this area such as investment, providing employment, improving technical skills and developing expertise in medical industries.

Paper products and related consumables is another untapped manufacturing opportunity with great potential in this area.  There is the possibility of a suitable manufacturing business producing writing paper, tissue paper and hand towel products from a combination of waste timber and recycled paper and cardboard.

Forest industries in our area transport several hundred thousand tons of waste hardwood timber annually to the Hunter Valley for disposal with no monetary return. In addition, about 50,000 tons of recycled paper and cardboard is also transported out of the area for very low returns. This represents a waste of valuable resource that could be used to produce high quality writing paper and other related products.

Many locally produced food products could also provide opportunities for downstream processing and packaging for export markets.  Whilst Cassegrain Wines already produce many award winning wines for export there is potential to develop other gourmet food products right here in our area.

Some of the key ingredients to this potential future investment in manufacturing in regional areas such as Port Macquarie include taxation and industrial relation reforms, coupled with minimal government intervention (reduced red and green tape) and sound policy to ensure cheap reliable baseload power supply.  To attract and make viable these enterprises we also need to identify and deliver the necessary transport and services infrastructure in the coming decade.

A combination of demand, opportunity and sound government policy backed by the necessary infrastructure will surely encourage investment in high tech manufacturing.

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