By Danielle Kutchel
A Covid-Safe plan has allowed work to continue on a new fruit processing facility at Montague.
The facility, which is being built at the fruit grower’s Narre Warren North site at the boundary of Lysterfield Park and Horswood Road, will process over 260,000,000 pieces of fruit annually once it is completed, to be distributed across Australia and the world.
The project will also comprise a café, retail space, apple and stone fruit sales, public picking orchard, seasonal exhibition space, bike shop and open space lawns available all of which will be open to the public.
The project had been impacted by the stage four lockdown restrictions in Victoria, with construction operating at a limited capacity since the August 5.
However, Montague was recognised by the State Government as critical and essential providers of fresh fruit to Australians and was granted special permission for construction to resume at an increased capacity.
Montague has implemented a High-Risk Covid-Safe plan and continues to adhere to all ongoing directions, recommendations and guidelines issued by DHHS to provide a safe environment for those working on the project.
“We are grateful to the State and Federal Governments for granting us special permission to increase and facilitate construction from September 13. This will mean that our facility will be fully operational in time for the apple harvest season next year, with improved capacity to process and pack the next crop and provide much needed fruit to the Victorian and broader Australians consumers,” said Rowan Little, chief innovation officer at Montague.
The company is looking forward to the first phase of the project – the 53,200 square-metre fruit processing facility – being completed by the end of the year, with equipment brought online in time for next year’s apple season.
Meanwhile, the hospitality arm of the project will be open by mid-January 2021 with the name of the cafe and public orchard to be unveiled in November 2020.
“Consumer research shows that Australians want to know where their food comes from and how it is handled before reaching the retail stores,” said Mr Little.
“From February 2021, visitors can join us to learn first-hand about fruit production while enjoying a coffee and picking some apples for themselves.”
In addition to the new café and retail space the project will also deliver significant upgrades to the 24-hour carpark at the end of Horswood Road which services Lysterfield park.
This will include a fully sealed carpark with additional parking capacity and expanded slips created for horse floats.
The upgraded carpark will be reopening to the public during spring of 2020.