More than 1,500 Queenslanders could lose their jobs as casualties of a heated dispute over a waterfront development in Brisbane.
Queensland meatworks operation Australian Country Choice (ACC) announced it was considering moving its sizeable operations interstate as it fights for the future of its meat processing facility in Cannon Hill.
The family business, led by billionaire Trevor Lee, has launched a legal appeal against the Brisbane council’s decision to approve two businesses in the Rivermakers precinct developed by BMI Group.
The ACC argued the proposed businesses would be located in an industrial buffer zone that prohibits using land for retail or restaurant activities.
The Queensland government intervened in the ongoing dispute between the two heavyweights by placing a temporary injunction on council approvals in the Morningside area, but the ACC said the move didn’t go far enough.
The meatworks business announced on Monday that it was considering moving its operations to NSW as it looked to “assess all viable options for the future”.
“Our preference would be to keep operating from our existing Brisbane premises which are world class, but that requires long-term planning certainty so we can continue making the necessary investment in our current operations and commit to a planned expansion down the track,” an ACC spokesperson said.
The family-run agriculture company is one of the largest primary production employers in the country, with 1,500 employees and plans to create a further 300 jobs.
“Supporting and growing our employee base is a top priority,” the ACC spokesperson said.
“We would prefer these jobs remain in Queensland, but without planning certainty we can’t make a long-term commitment.”
The ACC spokesperson said preliminary discussions are focused on locations in northern NSW for ease of cross-border access.
The Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union (AMIEU) said in a statement it was “deeply concerned” by the possible move, noting the meat processing facility had been “an important source of employment” for more than a century.
“If Australian Country Choice is forced to move, the impact upon meat workers and their families will be devastating,” Queensland branch secretary Matt Journeaux said.
The union said the encroachment of the commercial development on the abattoir site presented a serious threat to the “critical industry” of meat processing and the 1000 people employed at the ACC facility.
“It is inevitable that this will lead to complaints about the ongoing operation of the abattoir,” Mr Journeaux said.
“I can’t imagine too many people enjoying an outdoor dining experience in their new lifestyle hub with cattle trucks driving past.”
The AMIEU called on the Brisbane City Council and the state government to provide a long-term commitment to the ACC to allow the company to continue to invest in the abattoir and its employees.
The council has indicated it will abide by the temporary injunction and is working with businesses in the contentious waterfront development to ensure compliance.
The developer of the multimillion-dollar Rivermakers precinct, BMI Group, has been contacted for comment.
The ACC spokesperson confirmed the two businesses were not involved in mediation in relation to the dispute.