Swickers breaks ground on $60m expansion
THE ground has been broken on a $60 million expansion to Swickers Bacon Factory, just 14 months after fire destroyed a significant part of the facility.
It is a turnaround South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell describes as "nothing short of miraculous".
"Had this restoration not occurred, it would have been devastating for the town of Kingaroy and the entirety of the South Burnett," Cr Campbell said.
"It's nothing short of miraculous that Swickers have been able to put together this reconstruction in the period of time they have."
The expansion of the Kingaroy pig abattoir will double its processing capacity and is expected to create 66 new long-term jobs and up to 100 construction jobs, according to Minister for State Development Cameron Dick.
"Swickers currently processes over 90 per cent of the pigs processed in Queensland, and this expansion will allow the broader pig industry in our state to grow with the increased processing capacity," Mr Dick said.
"This will support regional growth in piggeries, transport providers and all other participants in the regional supply chain."
Mr Dick said the State Government funded the expansion through the Jobs and Regional Growth Fund.
The abattoir is the largest pork-processing facility in the southern hemisphere, processing between 18,000-20,000 pigs every week.
Sunpork Group CEO and managing director Dr Robert van Barneveld said the facility played an important role in both the South Burnett and the Queensland pork industry.
"The whole of the South Burnett not only relies on Swickers as the largest employer, the Queensland pork industry relies on Swickers to process its pigs for domestic and export markets," he said.
Hundreds of guests gathered for the official opening of the restored facility on Wednesday morning.
Federal Member for Maranoa and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the recovery and expansion of Swickers put confidence back into small regional communities.
"They have made a significant investment in agriculture. They've been through the highs and lows and they see the future ahead," Mr Littleproud said.
"Not only have they gone through the adversity of the fire, they've seen that future and they've made that strategic investment now."
The fire on November 6, 2016 destroyed the boning room, meat chillers and export facilities.
"So many employees were fearful of losing their jobs, not having something to go to for work on Monday morning," Cr Campbell said.
"The impeccable management attitude of Swickers brought their workers together and gave them a whole heap of support."
Dr van Barneveld said the facility had undergone a "remarkable" recovery.
"On the day I didn't think we'd be anywhere in 14 months," Dr van Barneveld said.
"It was all very overwhelming. But it has been a tremendous effort and it's just remarkable to see everything that has been put in place."
He said the expansion had to be finished by April 2019.
"We need it in place to be able to accommodate some of the short weeks we have in 2019," he said.