Estimated reading time 3 minutes 3 Min

Lismore’s Norco ice-cream factory to be saved thanks to government grants

Norco will rebuild its Lismore ice-cream factory and hopes that production at the farmer-owned co-operative in NSW will resume in April.

October 5, 2022
By Stephanie Gardiner and Maureen Dettre
5 October 2022

Dairy giant Norco will spend more than $59 million rebuilding its flood-damaged ice-cream factory in the NSW Northern Rivers, three weeks after standing down workers.

The factory, which sits on the banks of the Wilsons River in South Lismore, was forced to close after the catastrophic February floods, leaving more than 200 workers uncertain of their future.

Chief executive Michael Hampson says 105 staff had been stood down from the farmer-owned co-operative because there was no work for them during the rebuild.

Hinterland ice cream range, produced by Norco. Photo supplied.

“Lismore is the home of Norco, we’re founded in the Lismore region and we’ll be able to get this manufacturing facility back up and running and invite our people back to work here to make Australia’s best ice-cream,” he told ABC TV on Wednesday.

The company aimed for production to gradually resume from April, with workers returning progressively over months as various lines came on board, he said.

The factory would be rebuilt on the original site with key equipment to be lifted above 15 metres as well as the addition of mezzanine areas.

 “Lismore is a town that’s had 100 floods. This factory has survived 100 of them,” Mr Hampson said.

“The one that it didn’t was the mega-flood that we had in February which is a one-in-500 year event,” he said.

The dairy co-operative announced on Tuesday it would rebuild the factory with $34.7 million from a federal and NSW government flood package, along with $11 million from an outstanding 2019 grant from the state’s Regional Growth Fund.

The company said it would contribute more than $59 million to the rebuild, estimated to total more than $100 million.

“Norco will be taking on a greater level of risk, something we’re prepared to do in order to safeguard jobs, support other small and medium businesses in the region, and offer a sense of hope to a community of people who have already endured so much,” Mr Hampson said in a statement.

Norco stood down workers last month, saying the $34.7 million grant from state and federal governments was not enough to save the factory.

The layoffs prompted three unions to meet Norco management, urging certainty for staff.

The Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union’s Justin Smith said workers should receive voluntary redundancies and a guarantee their jobs would be available when the factory reopened.

“Workers at Norco and the entire Lismore community have been through so much this year,” Mr Smith said last month.

“They need stability and clarity about the future as soon as possible.”

A spokeswoman for the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union said on Tuesday there had been no further updates on the future of the Norco workforce.

More in Top Stories