By ZAC STANDISH
THE Opal Australian Paper Mill at Maryvale received a significant boost recently in the form of a $3 million upgrade to its rail freight siding system.
Ports and Freights Minister Melissa Horne was in Maryvale earlier this month to visit the mill and assess the upgrades to the rail tracks, which form part of a broader $83 million stimulus package from the state government into regional rail maintenance.
Ms Horne explained how this maintenance will assist Opal Australian Paper export product out of its Maryvale facility.
“Part of this investment (from this stimulus package) went to Australian Paper to be able ensure that they have the track maintenance required to provide that long-term pipeline to be able to export their product out through the Port of Melbourne and also interstate,” Ms Horne said.
“We have already delivered more than $75 million in vital regional rail upgrades under this package, improving freight connectivity and bolstering support for regional producers.”
Opening in 1937, the Maryvale mill has become a staple of the Latrobe Valley community and grown to employ 850 people and manufacture 600,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard annually, with over half transported by train.
Being such a large producer of industry in the region, she said it is of paramount importance to ensure its transport system is of a high quality.
“This is the highest value freight line in the state, so to make sure it is being maintained at the best possible standard for what it is transporting is of paramount importance to both the company and also the 850 local jobs that it creates,” she said.
“It was identified through the work that the company (Opal Australian Paper) had done with Freight Victoria and the Department of Transport to make sure we built on the work they had done previously with VicTrack, to say here is a high value investment that will have a big impact on the region.”
Ms Horne said an investment such as this into the Maryvale Mill will increase its reliability and allow Opal Australian Paper to continue to provide jobs to the local community.
“From what we have seen with Australian Paper looking to diversify what it is doing, to invest massively into its operations here, anything the state government can do to support is of critical importance because it is about creating the jobs locally and driving prosperity into regional Victoria,” she said.
From Opal Australian Paper’s perspective, manager of strategic projects Ben McLean said these upgrades will be extremely beneficial to the mill’s transport operations.
“We were facing a maintenance build-up that ran into hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and questions about the reliability of the service and the on-going nature of the rail access to the mills,” Mr McLean said.
“We wanted to make sure the rail line was in good condition, resolve the maintenance issue and provide a rail asset that we can use for years to come, it was fantastic to welcome the minister here today and see the line finished and looking so good.”
By ZAC STANDISH