REGION - Northern Grampians Shire Mayor, Cr Wayne Rice, is confident his participation in the Premier's Super Trade Mission to China will bring investment opportunities to the shire.
Cr Rice arrived back in Australia on Saturday night thrilled with the opportunity the trade mission presented and the outcomes that it could bring to the Northern Grampians.
He said the main possibilities for the shire, resulting from expressions of interest he received in China, included the export of meat product and wines, establishment of a new abattoir within the Northern Grampians Shire and the possibility of establishing a new winery with five star accommodation.
"I came home extremely pleased with the contacts that I had made and the prospects that might come out of the trade mission," he said.
"While in China, I really pushed the possibility of attracting investment for the establishment of a new abattoir in St Arnaud for the purposes of exporting pork.
"We know the Chinese people love Australian meat because of the tight quarantine laws we have. There are opportunities for us to tap into that market and if the investment can be secured, it will mean keeping jobs and creating even more employment within the Northern Grampians Shire."
Cr Rice said when the meat exporting was mentioned, he received five expressions of interest almost immediately.
He said he had met up with expatriate Australians in China who had agreed to follow up on the abattoir plans.
"The establishment of a mine training centre at Stawell which would couple as an underground rescue training facility, was also discussed and another expat Australian has agreed to follow up on that for us," he said.
"So there are already possibilities for outcomes as a result of our participation, which is very positive."
Cr Rice said the icing on the cake came when he was asked at the grand banquet, how difficult it would be to obtain a permit for a winery in the Northern Grampians.
"I had no hesitation in telling the person that it was not difficult at all. Then he asked about combining the winery with five star accommodation and that made my eyes light up.
"There was also an expression of interest around the handling of bones from the abattoir. I said there was a great opportunity to do that right here in the Northern Grampians Shire.
"A processing plant could be established here and it would be a very central location for them to establish themselves and service areas like Stawell, Ararat, Naracoorte and Mt Gambier.
"Just from having conversations with various people, ideas popped into their head and they started talking investment which is what we had hoped for.
"If it all comes together, there are real opportunities there for us to attract investment into our shire."
Cr Rice said the Chinese were also interested in tourism, but it was an area that needed a lot of work.
"Tourism is a very interesting area for us," he said.
"The Chinese don't take a lot of holidays and when they do, they are very short. They don't take blocks of two or four weeks like we do, they try and squeeze as much as they can into seven days.
"That's where areas like the Grampians miss out, because they tend to visit Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast, with the common interest being casinos.
"I tried to push the fact that the Grampians would be an ideal place for them to relax and be in touch with nature. They can take it easy rather than running in and out of places taking a couple of photos.
"It's an area that requires massive education. We are remaining very hopeful that something could come out of it.
"There are wonderful opportunities as a result of the mission for the Chinese to come out here and invest, either in a business or just for a relaxing holiday.
"What we need to do now is gauge the interest from various businesses in our shire, including the abattoirs and our many wineries so we can work out exactly what opportunities do exist.
"We need to set the wheels in motion now so if someone does knock on our door wanting to invest in a million dollar development in our shire, we will be prepared for them."