March 16, 2017
The Swickers complex in Kingaroy – the site of a massive fire late last year – is being transformed with three new buildings rapidly taking shape.
The fire on November 6 destroyed the company’s boning room, chillers and export distribution centre.
The boning room workers were relocated within days to another facility at Wulkuraka, near Ipswich, and a temporary accommodation village was built nearby for them to live in during weekdays.
Sunpork Group CEO Dr Robert van Barneveld told southburnett.com.au last week the priority now was to bring everyone back home as soon as possible.
For this reason, a temporary boning room is being built at the Kingaroy complex as an extension to the existing wholesale chiller building.
This building – like the killing floor and offices – was not damaged in the fire.
A new, permanent freezer and chilling building, which will work in conjunction with the temporary boning room, is being built a short distance away.
Mr van Barneveld said this freezer building was expected to be completed by the end of April.
“When both are finished, we expect to get everybody back (from Ipswich) during the first week in May,” he said.
“It has been a big ask to get people to live (away from home) every week.”
The Ipswich operation has also been costing Swickers money and co-ordination headaches with chiller trucks carrying product running constantly between the two sites.
The third part of the building project in Kingaroy is the reconstruction of the building that was destroyed by fire.
This site was thoroughly cleared of debris in February, and construction has now started on a new boning room, 10 chillers and a distribution centre on the same footprint as the razed building.
A tunnel will also be built to link this building and the new freezer building.
This will pass under the current main entrance road, which means the entrance will probably be re-located a short way up Kingaroy-Barkers Creek Road.
“We will then again be able to freeze offal for export. The offal market in Asia is a premium market for us,” Mr van Barneveld said.
Since the fire, offal has been going to render, ie. turned into lower-value by-products.
Mr van Barneveld said the plan was to have the new boning room building completed by the end of May.
All the work is being done at fast as possible, aided by the slashing of red tape by various authorities, but he said all the building work was top class.
“It will be a good quality building which will last us for 20 or 30 years,” he said.
“However, we made a commitment to the region to get back to business as soon as possible and we’re doing that.”
Local contractors were being used on the three building sites wherever possible.
Mr van Barneveld said that since the fire Swickers had maintained its full complement of 580 employees, and the kill rate was more than 17,500 pigs a week, “not far off where we were before”.