REGARDING RDA Hunter's plans for the region’s economy: The Herald might ask deputy chair John…
Author: Brian Robins
THE Infrastructure NSW chief executive Paul Broad’s declaration that Newcastle will not be developed as acontainer port has cut across comments by the Premier, Barry O’Farrell, as well as plans held by the coalmining entrepreneur, Nathan Tinkler.
After being blocked from pursuing plans to build a coal loader at the port, Mr Tinkler outlined plans for a container port, which has now run into difficulties.
Under state planning guidelines, Newcastle was to be developed to handle an increasing volume of the state’scontainer traffic, especially as Port Botany approaches capacity.
Port Botany is in the middle of a $1 billion expansion with the development of the third terminal, which paves the way for the entrance of the Hong Kong ports group Hutchison.
This expansion is to begin operation from 2013.
As well, Asciano is adding a berth at its Patrick container facility at the port, which will give its throughput a further boost.
While the state’s car imports have been shifted from Glebe Island, in Sydney’s centre, to Port Kembla, the state government has long viewed Newcastle as the location for the next container port, including the proposal in planning documents from at least 2008.
However, in recent comments Mr Broad has backed away from this particular commitment.
“We will not get containers in Newcastle,” Mr Broad said in a recent interview. “There’s about 3 million containerscome into Sydney a year now and it will be about 7.5 million in 10 years’ time.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Broad said Infrastructure NSW, which has been established last year by the Coalition government, said the intention was to focus on the development of the coal export chain in Newcastle.
“[Mr Broad] is emphasising the importance … of the coal chain,” the spokeswoman said.
Yet in January the Premier highlighted the role of the port’s Mayfield site to handle container traffic.
“The Mayfield site is more suited to handling multi-product, container, general cargo and dry bulk terminal freight,” Mr O’Farrell said. “The government’s strategies focus coal facilities on Kooragang Island, away from residential areas.”
Both Port Waratah Coal Services and the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group are expanding coal capacity at Newcastle, which is the largest coal-export port globally.
Mr Tinkler had sought to develop a coal loader at Newcastle, but the government blocked those plans, arguing it was too close to residential areas.