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2021 Australia – Democratic Republic of Congo Summit

Shepparton Mayor Kim O’Keeffe, Speech Notes, Friday 26 March 2021

Good morning everyone and welcome. I am very privileged to have been invited to speak today at the Democratic Republic of Congo Summit.

We, Greater Shepparton City Council, acknowledge the Yorta Yorta Peoples of the land which now comprises Greater Shepparton, we pay our respect to their tribal elders, we celebrate their continuing culture and we acknowledge the memory of their ancestors.

Greater Shepparton is the fifth largest region in Victoria, with the Goulburn Valley and Midland highway providing convenient transport and lifestyle connections to our neighbouring regions and cities.

Our strong attractive local economy is driven by industries leaders in Agriculture, Manufacturing and Construction and our region hosts key industries employers including SPC, Campbell’s Soups, Unilever, Freedom Foods, Goulburn-Murray Water, GOTAFE and GV Health to name a few. Greater Shepparton is recognised as the Food Bowl of Victoria, producing 25 per cent of the total value of Victoria’s agricultural export production.

Our Council is active in supporting local business in driving export opportunities and enhancing investment within the region. We apply a proactive approach towards securing new investment within our Local Government Area whilst at the same time supporting our local business to expand

Prior to COVID-19 we visited China to enhance our investment potential and to build upon our ongoing relationship. Our relationship with overseas countries are continuing to prosper with a visit to our sister city in Hong Kong to support and market our horticultural industry at one of the largest fruit and vegetable expos in the world.

The visit to both China and Hong Kong in 2019 have assisted in developing Council’s knowledge in international business, resulting in the development of an action plan which aligns with key objectives that are outlined within the International Engagement Strategy.

Our International Engagement Strategy further outlines the requirement for our continued efforts towards supporting local business and industry to capitalise and prepare for international investment opportunities. Council presents to both Regional Cities Victoria and Fruit Growers Victoria to provide an overview of the delegation visits to China. Council is committed to supporting the region’s local businesses in regards to international relations and continues to implement the actions within Greater Shepparton’s International Engagement Strategy.

Greater Shepparton’s gross production now exceeds $3 billion dollars per annum, not surprisingly those figures are growing with our state of the art irrigation, fertile soils, affordable land, fresh water and plenty of sunshine. This perfect recipe is why our region can produce high quality produce including, apples, pears, stone fruit, tomatoes, capsicums, zucchini, corn, cauliflowers and broccoli, just to name a few.

The ease of distribution to Melbourne’s whole fruit and vegetable markets, as well as Greater Shepparton’s efficient freight logistics network supports the delivery of ‘fresh’ quality produce across Australia and globally, making it even easier to have our regions produce emerge on dinner tables, supermarkets and restaurants around the world.

Many brands found in homes and businesses across Australia and around the world are proudly manufactured right here in Greater Shepparton including SPC, Australia’s only fruit preserving company, that provide a high speed convenient packaging solution that the market demands.

Rubicon is a world leader in automated water management and delivery systems, Freedom Foods who have a $60 million dollar facility and export milk products to China and South East Asia. Pental Products, is a ‘home and personal care’ company, with a long list of famous and respected brands who are also continuing to grow.

Tatura Milk, Unilever, Campbell’s Soups are all global brands and are all here in Greater Shepparton.

The impact of COVID-19 has seen an influx of relocations from Melbourne to our region, seeking a better, more relaxed lifestyle. Various infrastructure developments have also attracted additional workforce to the region with 450 jobs becoming available at GV Health. Our focus on tourism and hospitality and supporting our local businesses have produced additional employment prospects within these sectors.

We have almost completed the construction of the New Shepparton Arts Museum. This exciting project valued at $49.9 million will support our region in becoming recognised as a ‘creative city’ further driving the growth of innovation and art within the municipality. The new building is located in one of our most prominent locations being the Victoria Park Lake which we expect will bring additional investment to the precinct and help significantly grow our visitor economy.

Greater Shepparton I am sure you will agree has so much to offer with all the amenities at our doorstep, it’s no surprise that we are experiencing so much growth within our region.

We are looking forward to learning more about the Democratic Republic of Congo and building on investment potential so both countries can benefit economically and socially.

I hope you enjoy your stay here in Greater Shepparton.

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