Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) welcomed a decision by Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek not to halt development of a $4.5 billion urea fertiliser production plant in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.
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Minister Plibersek’s decision supports fertiliser manufacturing in Australia – which helps dairy farmers deal with soaring costs of farm inputs – and preserves ancient rock art by First Nations people on the Burrup peninsula.

“We congratulate Minister Plibersek on finding a path forward. Development of the site can now proceed having already received approval from the relevant state authorities,” said ADF President Rick Gladigau.

“Australia must urgently expand domestic urea production to secure supply and stabilise fertiliser prices. Prices have skyrocketed due to COVID disruptions, including higher shipping costs, as well as several geopolitical challenges, including fertiliser supply restrictions out of China and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”

ADF has been advocating for the importance of shoring up Australia’s fertiliser production directly to Minister Plibersek and has lobbied for exploration and development of fertiliser production in Australia. ADF supported the previous Government’s pre-election decision to award major project status to the urea fertiliser project in the Pilbara.

Dairy farmers rely on fertilisers, including urea, to produce pasture and fodder to feed their cows and produce milk. Fertiliser prices are more than double their pre-pandemic level.

The fluctuating price of natural gas – a key input in urea production – means urea prices are on a rollercoaster with no end to the volatility in sight for the dairy industry, Australia’s fourth largest agricultural industry. Australian dairying is a $13 billion farm, manufacturing and export industry that employs 43,000 Australians and feeds millions every day.

Perth-based Perdaman Chemicals and Fertilisers agreed not to begin ground disturbance works for its planned urea production plant, following claims from some Traditional Owners that the plant could accelerate degradation of the rock art.

However, Minister Plibersek decided not to grant their request for an emergency pause on the project – made under section 9 of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act – because it was not supported by the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, the legally constituted and democratically elected representative organisation that safeguards First Nations culture in the Burrup area. Murujuga had agreed with Perdaman on the appropriate cultural treatment of five rock art sites.

“ADF acknowledges the cooperation of the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and the consultation by Perdaman Chemicals and Fertilisers in achieving an outcome that is positive for dairy farmers,” Mr Gladigau.

The South Island dairy company Synlait Milk is back in the black as its ingredients division saw higher than normal sales, while its major customer rebalanced inventory levels.

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