Dairy co-operative Murray Goulburn has announced it will sell its mothballed cheese plant at Leitchville, despite knocking back offers in the past.
It is also considering options for the land and buildings which could include a possible sale in the future.
A Murray Goulburn spokesman said the sale was part of a decision to maximise value to the co-op, suppliers and stakeholders.
Gannawarra Shire economic development manager Roger Griffiths said the decision was a step in the right direction for the local community.
‘‘Council and the community have long been advocating for a constructive use of the assets and hopefully this sale may see Murray Goulburn release the site for productive use,’’ Mr Griffiths said.
‘‘It was always difficult to facilitate development of the site without Murray Goulburn having a clear plan of their future intentions.
‘‘Council will certainly be seeking support from all levels of government and the private sector to develop the site and bring jobs and investment back into the local community.’’
Long-time Leitchville resident Ivan Dye said it would be great to see the factory up and running.
‘‘It would be good to see it back in use but I don’t know where they would get the milk from,’’ he said.
‘‘A lot of milk supply has been lost from northern Victoria and I couldn’t imagine the site processing milk. Maybe it can be used for something else.’’
Mr Dye said there had been many rumours over the years of different businesses wanting the site.
‘‘It is a huge site and it would be nice to not see it sitting idle,’’ he said.
Murray Goulburn closed the factory in 2010 because of a decline in milk production.
At the time, managing director Stephen O’Rourke said milk production in northern Victoria had fallen from three billion litres in 2001-02 to a forecast 1.75billion litres for 2009-10, rendering the factory unviable.
The decline in milk production was largely attributed to tough conditions resulting from the millennium drought.
About 80 workers were employed at the Leitchville factory and the company issued a statement saying the decision was necessary to ensure the long-term interests of supplier shareholders were protected.
When questioned about the future of the Rochester factory, the Murray Goulburn spokesman said the co-op would not abandon the site.
‘‘Once the assessment process has been completed, we will be in a position to better consider future options for the site. Longer term we are not intending to mothball the site and we have been approached by parties interested in the site,’’ the spokesman said.
Calivil supplier Dehne Vinnicombe, who milks 440 cows, said the co-op should have sold the site years ago.
‘‘It has got to the point where MG have to sell their assets to put money back into the milk pool,’’ Mr Vinnicombe said.
‘‘They are losing supply because farmers have had enough of their poor management and the co-op just can’t afford to hold onto their assets any more.’’
Mr Vinnicombe is contracted to Murray Goulburn through the Next Generation package but when his contract runs out in August he will be taking his milk supply to Parmalat.
- Sophie Baldwin