Norco competitor calls out 'discrimination'
UPDATE 6.30pm: THE loser in the government's decision to overturn the HealthShare NSW milk contract in favour of locally owned co-op Norco has claimed up to 80 NSW dairy farmers are "gutted" by the reversal.
Dairy Farmers Milk Co-Op lost the contract after a community outcry this week to support Norco. DFMC is a co-op, owned by its member-farmers, and supplies milk to Lion under contract.
But Executive Officer of the Dairy Farmers Mark Kebbel, said the farmers who would have supplied the milk used in the original contract were also NSW locals whose milk is processed locally.
Under the contract 98% of the milk used was to be sourced from NSW farms.
"Our challenge to Norco is to guarantee that their product is, like ours, locally made and not manufactured at their plant on the Gold Coast," he said.
Lion Dairy & Drinks external relations director Elise Gare said the government's back flip was bad news for their milk suppliers.
"The big losers from this decision are the 80 New South Wales dairy farmers who supply quality milk to the Lion Dairy & Drinks business for the Dairy Farmers milk brand that forms part of this government contact," she said.
"These dedicated and highly efficient New South Wales dairy farmers have been discriminated against on the misunderstanding that their milk somehow isn't 'local'.
"Under the contract 98% of the white milk that Lion Dairy & Drinks supplies to New South Wales Government comes from New South Wales farms and is manufactured at our Penrith and Wetherill Park manufacturing sites in New South Wales."
UPDATE 2.45pm: Norco chair and acting chief executive Greg McNamara said he was thrilled with the decision to return the tender to the local coop.
"Yee-ha! This is the best news we have had all year," he said.
"The tender issue has been a problematic time, but now we are back on track, thanks to the community we are onwards and upwards."
Mr McNamara said the decision was a great outcome.
"Not only for our people but the state government showing its initiative that it will make changes to reflect the community's views," he said.
"This is a fantastic team effort, it's democracy at it's best and I want to thank The Northern Star who really got behind us and the community, because this is not just about Norco, it's about people being listened to and appreciated."
UPDATE 2pm: LISMORE MP Thomas George said he had been working behind the scenes with Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard, to have the HealthShare NSW contract overturned.
"With the support of my National Party colleagues on the North Coast we have been able to secure this win for our dairy farmers," he said.
"This week I have also had meetings with Minister for Finance, Services and Property, Victor Dominello, to discuss the opportunity for the government to give a weighting when it comes to local businesses applying for government contracts."
Meanwhile, NSW Labor has hailed the decision as "pure people power".
"This is about an alliance of the community, farmers and hospital workers coming together to fight for North Coast jobs," NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord said.
"If the community had not spoken, the State Government would have stuck with their decision to scrap the contract with Norco."
"There is no way the Nationals can take credit for pretending to overturn a decision made by their own government.
"Make no mistake, this is pure people power."
But Nationals Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW Ben Franklin said the "real work" of the Norco contract win was achieved "behind the scenes".
"From the moment this decision was made, local Member for Lismore Thomas George, my North Coast Nationals colleagues and I have worked with the Minister for Health to find a resolution," he said.
"This is a wonderful example of good government delivering for our regional communities."
Original story: LOCAL supplier Norco is back on the menu after Health Minister Brad Hazzard reversed a State Government decision to shun the Northern Rivers dairy co-op.
Mr Hazzard this afternoon announced the contract for milk and dairy supplies for hospitals on the north and mid north coasts will be filled by the previous supplier, Norco, following discussions this week.
He said the NSW Government recognised the community wanted to support the local dairy industry in Northern NSW.
"The NSW Ministry of Health has a duty, generally, to provide the best products for patients at the best possible price for taxpayers," he said.
"In that context the NSW public sector agency, HealthShare NSW, put the state wide contract for milk and dairy supply out to tender and made a decision which precluded Norco supplying hospitals in the northern and mid north coast areas."
Mr Hazzard said he was grateful to Lismore MP Thomas George for bringing the matter to his attention so promptly and relaying community concerns.
"It is understandable that locals would prefer to have Norco provide the milk and dairy products for local hospitals," he said.
"In light of the impact on the community, which only came to light after the tender, I asked HealthShare NSW to review its decision. Accordingly, the contract will be reinstated and the benefits of providing local milk to local hospitals have been given priority. I call on Norco to ensure that it delivers jobs to locals and prioritises its local community in every possible way."
"Norco will continue to provide the milk and dairy products for the Northern and Mid North Coast local health districts," Mr Hazzard said.
More to come.