Iconic Lismore ice cream factory reopens
Northern Rivers flood recovery has hit a significant milestone today, with the reopening of the Norco ice cream factory in Lismore.
The factory, one of the biggest employers in the Northern Rivers, was forced to close after suffering major damage in the February-March 2022 floods.
Today it’s back in business, with 130 local employees now back at work, and more hires to be made over the coming months.
The Lismore factory produces approximately 42 million litres of ice cream per year.
The Albanese and NSW Governments collectively contributed nearly $55 million to the reopening efforts, to protect local jobs, boost resilience and re-establish factory operations.
This includes $34.7 million jointly funded through the Anchor Business Support Grant Program, which supported six key local businesses to retain staff and rebuild.
The funding has supported Norco to rebuild with a flood-proof design and technologies that have equipped the site to defend a 15.0M flood – higher than the 2022 levels:
- Positioning expensive specialised equipment like switch boards 15 metres above ground.
- Installing quick release capabilities to items such as pumps so they can be moved easily.
- Installing two mezzanines to allow staff to lift pallets of equipment greater than 15 metres high.
- Installing nib walls to protect equipment that cannot be moved.
- Installing additional sumps and pumps within the flood barriers to deal with any water leaks.
- Implementing a four-stage flood management plan that is reviewed and practised regularly to ensure best practice and safe evacuation procedures.
- Installing infrastructure to detect unprecedented disaster events, such as fires.
These measures mean the factory will be able to open its doors within days or weeks rather than months or years following another flooding event.
Quotes attributable to Federal Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt:
“This is an exciting day - Norco is one of the region’s biggest employers, and seeing the doors reopen is a big boost for the community.
“The Albanese Government invested $20 million directly, and close to $35 million jointly with the NSW Government to help secure the future of Norco’s Northern Rivers operations, because of the important role it holds in the region.
“A major priority for the Albanese Government was to ensure that as much of the workforce as possible were retained, so it’s great to hear that 130 workers will be back today.
"Many have been working with the Lismore City Council and groups like Resilience Lismore to support local community recovery work while the factory was being rebuilt.
“Our Government was pleased to work with the NSW Government and all of the recipients of Anchor Business Support grants to help rebuild local facilities.
"The improvements will minimise the damage of future flooding and support those businesses to bounce back faster, providing more consistent employment for their workers.”
Quotes attributable to Minister for Regional NSW Tara Moriarty said:
“The reopening of Norco ice cream factory marks a huge milestone in the flood recovery efforts for the Northern Rivers.
“As one of the biggest employers in the region, we know how important it is to invest in projects that deliver resilient infrastructure so people can stay in jobs and the economy can thrive.
“Our shared goal with the 100 per cent Australian dairy farmer owned Norco, is that after any future flooding event this investment in the rebuilt Norco ice cream factory has ensured the business will be able to get back into action quicker.”
Quotes attributable to Assistant Minister Senator Jenny McAllister:
“Today is an important milestone for the Northern Rivers.
"The Norco factory brings workers, farmers, businesses, and the community together, and the Albanese Government is committed to building back smarter and stronger.
“The factory has been fitted with flood mitigation measures like higher switch boards and quick release mechanisms to future proof the factory against floods higher than the 2022 level.”
Quotes attributable to NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Disaster Recovery Janelle Saffin:
“The reopening of the Norco ice cream factory is a massive day for the people here in the Northern Rivers.
“Not only is it important for the employees to get back to work but it’s also crucial for local dairy farmers and small businesses who rely on the factory.
“The ice cream factory is one of the longest standing large businesses in the region, and with the new flood mitigations measures in place we want to ensure that it continues to stay that way.”
Quotes attributable to Norco Chief Executive Officer Michael Hampson:
“We understand just how important the factory is to our workforce and the Lismore community and will remain future-focused on continuing to create opportunities for the region, maintaining a strong focus on innovation, jobs creation and investment in people, to create exciting career development pathways from right here in Lismore.
“I’d also like to express my sincere gratitude to both the Australian and NSW Governments who facilitated the Anchor Business Support Program, and delivered the funding which has enabled us to rebuild in a way that has modernised our operations and introduce product innovations and technology that will help cement the Northern Rivers of NSW and its thriving ‘food belt’ as a food innovation, centre of excellence.”
The Anchor Business Support Grant Program supported nearly 1400 local full-time jobs in the Northern Rivers, through six successful recipients:
- Norco Co-operative Limited
- Manildra Harwood Sugars (Sunshine Sugar)
- Social Futures,
- McKinlay Enterprises (North Coast Petroleum)
- Williams Group Australia
- Multitask Human Resource Foundation.
The $59.3 million program was funded by a $44.3 million commitment from the Commonwealth Government, with $15 million co-funding from the NSW Government.