Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (15:12): I rise today to talk about the recommissioning of Thomas Foods, or the commissioning of a new plant after five years and five months of quite turbulent and busy times since that terrible fire of 3 January 2018, when some welding sparked a terrible fire, which in the end saw the whole plant just on the edge of Murray Bridge burn to the ground, putting 1,500 people out of work. It is so pleasing to see Darren Thomas and his team commit to building the new plant, worth many, many tens of millions of dollars, about 10 kilometres outside Murray Bridge.
It was no small feat, with co-investment from the former state and federal Liberal governments including $14 million of state money and $10 million of federal money that went in to support community infrastructure. I note that the road train turnoff from Mannum Road and 2.2 kilometres of roadworks into the new plant cost $14 million and that $10 million from the federal government, as part of that $24 million, supported the hot gas connection, waterworks and power supply to that plant.
It was very pleasing to have a direct phone call from Darren Thomas last Friday morning to be told that they were commissioning the plant that day. This plant has been built to world standards: the best lairage works you can get and the best stock management works you can get in regard to cattle health and safety. The process goes right through, from the slaughter floor and the processing works through to the packing area, where everything will be basically computer and robotically controlled and where anything from a carton to a pallet can be put into the 10-storey high cooling towers and then dispatched across the country and across the world.
I must commend the Thomas family—Chris, Darren and Jack—and the whole team for where they have got to today. It is just fantastic to see that recommitment to South Australia. This is a company that exports to 80 countries, with an annual turnover of more than $1 billion. We see lamb, beef, mutton and goat production, and we note that that small stock is now processed at Lobethal. It supplies major supermarkets in Australia, Asia and the US. It supplies the McDonald's chain.
I want to note that 15 September 2020 was when the turning of the sod event took place, and I have some iconic photos of Chris, Darren and Jack Thomas at that event. There is now a recruitment drive for the 350 workers needed as it commences beef processing, and one of the first recruits was Alex Thompson, a local chef from Mannum who used to work at the Pretoria. He will be head chef at Thomas Foods to feed the staff and will utilise the commercial kitchen to prepare that food.
Future stages of the development will include sheep and lamb processing facilities into the future, and there is also room to put in extra cooling rooms as beef production heats up. They are working towards processing up to 600 beef cattle a day. I also want to commend the work that Thomas Foods International has done with the doubling of the feedlot down at Tintinara. This will mean that up to 50 per cent of their stock will come out of that feedlot to ensure supply and ensure they can get that vital beef transported to Murray Bridge and processed.
This is a great win not just for Murray Bridge, not just for Hammond and not just for the state but for the whole country in terms of what this will bring. As it expands into the future with its lamb processing plant there will be 2,000 jobs for people directly employed there at Thomas Foods, and another 4,000 indirect jobs.
I am so proud to have worked side-by-side with Thomas Foods to make this vision a reality, and I note their investment in this state.
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