Author: Josephine Tovey
THE state government will allow unrestricted container movements from Port Botany as a carrot to the private sector bidding for the port, a move the opposition says will worsen congestion on some of Sydney’s most clogged roads.
The Treasurer, Mike Baird, confirmed the government intends to lift the existing cap of 3.2 million container movements as part of the transaction of the port in a 99-year lease.
The cap was established following widespread expansion of the port under the former Labor government and fears that unrestricted movement would worsen congestion.
But the adviser to the state government on the port sale, investment bank Morgan Stanley, told the government the sale price would be more than $1 billion higher if the cap was lifted.
Mr Baird said the cap needed to be removed in the short to medium term. “On current estimates, Port Botany is likely to reach the cap by approximately 2017 – many years earlier than originally anticipated,” he said. “The removal of the cap is in line with the recommendations of the scoping study to get the best outcome for NSW taxpayers.”
The government will need to seek an alteration to the existing planning rules governing the site to remove the limit. Mr Baird said advisers would now consult the community and local council to ensure the government’s “mitigation strategies aim to address their concerns”.
The shadow treasurer, Michael Daley, the member for Maroubra which takes in the port, said lifting the cap was a mistake but if it was to be done it should only be once other steps, including an upgrade of the M5 East, have been taken.
Mr Baird said the existing cap did not prevent traffic congestion, and the port accounted for only 1.8 per cent of traffic on the M5 East in both directions.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union national secretary, Bob Nanva, said the government did not have sufficient plans to increase rail infrastructure to deal with the surge in movements, and the containers would end up on roads.
Last year, the O’Farrell government dropped the target of freight to be moved from the port by rail to 28 per cent after rail consistently failed to approach the target.