NAB senior leaders take a closer look at Australia’s trade and export sector – providing all-important insights into how regional and agribusinesses can best respond to today’s challenges and opportunities.
You need certain qualities if a blue-sky-thinking, game-changing project is to become reality. Thankfully, Queensland businessman Alan Stent-Smith and son Warrick have them in spades.
Today, Central Queensland Inland Port (CQIP) is a 240-hectare transport and logistic hub, 19 kilometres east of Emerald, connecting regional Australia to national and international markets. But CQIP has its origin in some blue sky thinking in the mid 2000s from local farming and building contractor family the Stent-Smiths, when grazing land they owned was rezoned for large-scale industrial use.
Fifteen years on, the bold idea to establish a transport and logistics hub on the site is a reality. CQIP incorporates a bulk handling facility and a multi-user intermodal container terminal adjacent to a 56-lot 24/7 industrial estate and a large cotton gin. A major logistics and shipping company operates a grain packing facility and runs direct train services to Australia’s east coast ports.
CQIP is managed by Alan and his son Warrick, both passionate proponents of the benefits better transport and logistics will deliver to the Central Queensland agribusiness sector.
“To appreciate CQIP’s potential, you need to understand the need for greater efficiency in the supply chain,” Warrick says.
“Australia is home to some of the most efficient farmers in the world, but very often that efficiency stops at the farm gate. Some crops have to be sent long distances to be packed – locally grown chickpeas being freighted to Southern Queensland, for example – and there’s a significant differential between the cost of road and rail transport.
“Putting more of that processing infrastructure in situ and reducing the freight costs from producer to port makes a lot of crops more viable and profitable.”
There’s also the potential to cut the cost of imports, such as fertiliser and steel, to the region, if they can be shipped to the hub by direct rail.
Bringing three levels of government together to support this project – and selling the concept to stakeholders – took patience and persistence from Alan and Warrick. Now, the infrastructure in place increases competitiveness and access to national and international markets.
“Establishing the key enabling infrastructure at CQIP allows the industry to confidently invest in our region, creating jobs, growth and increased profitability to all sectors,” Warrick says.
“Build it and they’ll come is a strong belief of ours,” Alan adds. “We believed in the area and in making a difference. It was about seeing an opportunity to do things better and focusing our energies on making it happen.”
That the CQIP is up and running and poised for expansion is testament to Alan and Warrick’s foresight and determination, according to NAB Senior Agribusiness Manager Craig Slack.
“It’s been a slow-burner project – the guys have methodically and progressively driven it to a point where all their hard work’s paying off and they’ve created something that will open up opportunities for producers and businesses right across the region,” Craig says.
“Craig has been inspirational in helping our business grow sustainably,” says Alan. “Having a banker who understands the vision and potential has been crucial.”
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