NIOA buys historic Lithgow property to set up a corporate office at Australia's gun manufacturing centre, further investing in sovereign capability.
NIOA has purchased Lidsdale House which sits on a 20-hectare estate divided into two separate titles on the Castlereagh Highway, 10 minutes outside of Lithgow in New South Wales’ Central Tablelands.
Built in 1920 by local mine owner Frank Neubeck, the nine-bedroom sandstone manor surrounded by parkland gardens has been used more recently as the local headquarters for a coal mining company.
The historic residence would serve as the company’s Lithgow corporate base while it explores options in the area, according to NIOA CEO Robert Nioa.
“Lidsdale house is one of the region’s architectural treasures,’’ Nioa said.
“Our immediate plan is to establish NIOA corporate facilities there so that we can explore options in the Lithgow region to maximise sovereign small arms capability."
“At this stage it is too early to determine what the outcome of those explorations will be," Nioa said.
The establishment of the Lithgow office follows NIOA’s recruitment of leading industry personnel.
Senior weapons design engineers Richard Basladynski and Jason Jonker, and weapons business development specialist Peter McLeod, all with previous associations to Lithgow-based small arms manufacturing, have recently joined NIOA.
NIOA is the prime contractor for Stage 1 of Tranche 1 of the Australian Army’s LAND 159 Lethality Systems program to modernise the ADF’s weapons systems.
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"As the prime contractor for Stage 1 of Tranche 1 of LAND 159, we are now preparing options for Tranche 2 of the program and beyond with a focus on domestic manufacture," Nioa said.
"Lithgow held a distinguished place in Australian manufacturing history as the location of the Australian government-owned Small Arms Factory (SAF)."
“Although current weapons manufacturing at Lithgow is significantly reduced in scale to previous generations, Lithgow remains an area that has a long association with the production of weapons for the ADF,’’ Nioa said.
Lithgow has a proud industrial heritage as the “home of small arms in Australia’’ having produced guns for Australian troops since World War 1.
The government-owned Small Arms Factory began making the Lee-Enfield .303 bolt action rifle in 1912, which became the standard weapon of British and Empire forces.
“As the only Australian owned prime contractor in the weapons and munitions space, NIOA is committed to investing in and growing our domestic weapons and munitions industrial base.’’
The ammunitions hub was churning out 100,000 rifles per year, by World War 2, and a workforce of more than 6,000 produced the Vickers machine gun and Bren light machine gun.
Munitions and small arms research, design, development and manufacture have been identified as one of the federal government’s top 10 Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities (SICP).
NIOA has entered a significant growth phase with a $130 million capital investment in domestic munitions and explosives manufacturing including a $60 million artillery shell forging plant in Maryborough with joint-venture partner Rheinmetall Waffe Munitions, a $13 million refurbishment of the government-owned contractor-operated (GoCo) munitions plant at Benalla in Victoria, and an $11 million extension of its Brisbane headquarters.
Founded in regional Queensland in 1973, NIOA has more than 150 staff with offices and operations in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Benalla, New Zealand, the United States and now Lithgow.