Newman eyes east coast potential

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Wally Newman.
Camera IconWally Newman. Credit: The West Australian

CBH chairman-elect Wally Newman has referenced Wesfarmers' move to set up the WA co-operative more than 80 years ago in describing options for investment on the east coast.

Mr Newman, who will take over as chairman from Neil Wandel in August, gave a ringing endorsement of the CBH business model and its potential to attract grain growers in other States.

"If you go back in time, Wesfarmers put �100,000 into CBH and got us off the ground," he said.

"I'm sure we can probably do the same for the east coast but it will be at arm's length and it will be a commercial arrangement. It won't be a free hand-out.

"They will pay for it in the long run. They will own and control their own set up eventually but they will need seed capital initially, I would imagine."

Mr Newman stressed the CBH board had not yet made a decision to start a co-operative on the east coast or on investment in storage and freight assets.

"The board hasn't even analysed all of the business plans," he said.

During a series of meetings in the Wheatbelt last month, senior CBH staff and Mr Wandel outlined business plans for the leap into storage and handling on the east coast, including a new co-operative.

Some grower members in WA claim CBH is planning to spend $100 million on storage, handling and rail assets. CBH will make a decision on whether to proceed by the end of June.

The initial focus is on growers able to supply the recently opened Newcastle Agri-Terminal, which CBH part owns with Olam and Glencore.

Australia's biggest grain grower, Ron Greentree, and other major producers around the Narrabri, Moree and Burren Junction have given the CBH plans conditional support.

Wesfarmers and the Wheat Pool joined forces to set up CBH - now Australia's biggest co-operative - in 1933.

Mr Newman said he welcomed robust board level discussion on all aspects of the business, including investment on the east coast.

"I've been in local government for 25 years and I'd be disappointed if there wasn't robust discussion on all issues," he said.

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