Rheinmetall NIOA Munitions (RNM) has begun construction of its shell forging plant, boosting confidence in the Fraser Coast economy as it grapples with the coronavirus pandemic slowdown.
Heavy machinery moved in during March to begin the process of transforming the four-hectare greenfield site at Maryborough into a 7,000-square metre artillery shell forging factory that will eventually supply the Australian Defence Force and allied forces globally.
More than 90 workers will be needed at the peak of construction, while 100 ongoing jobs will be created when the $60 million facility is fully operational by 2022.
The projectile plant has had the backing of both the federal government ($28.5 million) and state government ($7.5 million), recognising the importance of the defence industry to kick-start regional economies.
RNM Maryborough project manager Jeff Crabtree said Australian-owned building firm BADGE would lead a 14-month construction phase, which would be followed by the fit-out then commissioning late next year.
“This has been in the planning stages for two years, so it is very exciting to see work finally begin, especially at a time when the wider economy has been knocked around by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Crabtree said.
“The new building will not only be an employment-generator for the immediate future, but it will put this region on the map for years to come as a defence industry centre of excellence domestically and globally.”
BADGE will look to find skills across 40 different construction elements during the build, including all skilled trades, with a focus on the local area. At the same time, recruitment at RNM has already begun for senior managers and engineers with employment in advanced manufacturing roles to open late 2020, early 2021.
Roman Koehne, chairman of Rheinmetall NIOA Munitions, said, ''We looked at sites around the world for a factory like this and in the end we settled on this region because we know we can draw on the skills, workmanship and expertise to make high-quality equipment.''
Robert Nioa, chief executive of NIOA and director of RNM, said, "Today is the beginning of a new chapter for NIOA and Rheinmetall with whom we have had a great relationship for the past 25 years. This project represents a deep commitment to the region and to building Australia's sovereign capability.''
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Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack added that production from the Maryborough facility would meet increasing demand for investment in munitions for the Australian Defence Force.
“The forging and manufacturing facility will ensure future resources supplied to the ADF will be Australian-made and create Australian industry capability now and into the future,” Minister McCormack said.
Queensland Minister for State Development and Manufacturing Cameron Dick said it was great to see construction commence on this game-changing project.
“The construction of the $60 million Rheinmetall NIOA Munitions facility will provide a great boost for the Maryborough and Wide Bay Burnett jobs market both on the building site and through the supply chain, and with 100 long-term manufacturing jobs when the plant commences full production in 2022, it’s big-thinking, job-creating projects like this that the Queensland government is proud to assist,” Minister Dick said.