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Deputy PM visit marks Maryborough munitions plant milestone

27 July 2021

A vision to put Maryborough on the international map as a centre of defence manufacturing excellence has reached a major milestone.

Fifteen months after workers broke ground on a bare 23ha parcel of dirt at the Moonaboola Industrial Estate, construction is finally complete on the new Rheinmetall NIOA Munitions artillery shell forging plant.

The factory will use state-of-the-art equipment, including a 1200-tonne hot forging press, to produce the world’s most technically advanced 155mm calibre projectiles for the Australian Defence Force as well as export markets.

Australian company BADGE Constructions led the building phase for the $60m project which has had multi-level government backing with a $28.5m injection from the Federal Government’s Regional Growth Fund on top of $7.5m from the Queensland Government’s Regional Jobs and Investment Fund.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce joined Rheinmetall NIOA Munitions representatives for a tour of the plant today, and Federal Member for Wide Bay Llew O’Brien, who drove the push for Commonwealth funding, welcomed the project update.

“We began work in Canberra three years ago on bringing this project to Maryborough, so today our region can share in RNM’s pride to finally see the concept become a reality,” Mr O’Brien said.

“The Rheinmetall NIOA Munitions plant heralds a new chapter for a region that has a strong industrial heritage, creating 100 ongoing jobs and potentially adding more than $100 million in economic output to the Australian economy, including $36 million within the Wide Bay area alone.

“This shows how the Federal Government’s investment in industry is helping to create local jobs and firmly puts Maryborough on the defence industry map, creating a better future for our region.”

Mr Joyce said the project had delivered immediate and long-term jobs for the region.

“The is a shining example of the Federal Government’s Regional Growth Fund doing its job. Boosting confidence, inspiring innovation and creating jobs that strengthen regional communities,” he said.

More than 590 site inductions for workers were undertaken during the construction phase with just over 60 contracts placed for goods and services. The Wide Bay region and Southeast Queensland were the big winners with 55 contracts accounting for 98 per cent of the project spend.

The striking administration office and entry foyer to the 7000sqm facility was constructed using locally grown timber from Maryborough-based Hyne Timber.

When fully operational in 2022 the plant will have the capacity to produce 30,000 shell cases per year with a workforce of up to 100] from line supervisors, skilled operators, maintenance staff, labourers and apprentices.

NIOA CEO and Rheinmetall NIOA Munitions Deputy Chairman Robert Nioa said the factory would bolster the local economy while delivering true sovereign industrial capability.

Australia currently imports artillery shell cases from overseas for use by the Army in both training and combat.

“From concept to completion, it’s been two years, so it is very exciting to see the end result. It is a magnificent-looking building, and we can all be proud of this,” Mr Nioa said.

“RNM is committed to playing a key role as regional economies recover from the pandemic while producing the best equipment for the ADF and supporting government at all levels in their endeavours to create new domestic manufacturing opportunities in the defence sector.”

Rheinmetall Waffe Munitions Chief Executive Officer and Rheinmetall NIOA Munitions Chairman Roman Koehne said the projectile plant would combine the best of global and local expertise in advanced military manufacturing.

“We are delighted to reach this significant milestone,” Mr Koehne said. “’Together with our long-term partners at NIOA we are a step closer to developing a highly qualified local workforce, capable of producing world-leading munitions.”

Rheinmetall NIOA Munitions Project Manager Jeff Crabtree said the building completion was a “fantastic achievement” by the whole team. The next stage will be the factory fit-out, followed by the commissioning, then first article production, commencing early 2022.

Munitions and small arms research, design, development and manufacture has been identified as one of the federal government’s top 10 Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities.