STATE ELECTION 2011: No word on terminal – Newcastle Herald

Michelle Harris, March 4 2011

THE state government is staying silent on the fate of a proposed $600 million private-sector port development at the Mayfield former steelworks site, as mining magnate Nathan Tinkler pushes ahead with a rival coal terminal plan.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission records show Mr Tinkler has registered half a dozen companies in recent months that would handle the project.

The Newcastle Herald has learnt his proposed terminal would be called the Hunter Ports project, the name of one of the companies registered to a Honeysuckle address late last year.

It in turn is owned by Tinkler Ports Investments that has Mr Tinkler’s wife Rebecca listed as its shareholder.

Other companies registered include Hunter Coal Logistics, Hunter Rail, Hunter Rail Investments, and Hunter Coal Holdings. Mr Tinkler is a director of each.

He has a stake in Buildev, the company the government contracted to redevelop the Intertrade site, on about 60 hectares behind the 90 hectares of Mayfield port land.

His listed company Aston Resources, chaired by former federal MP and Nationals leader Mark Vaile, plans to mine coal from Gunnedah from 2014 but will struggle to find space at existing coal-loaders.

Representatives of Mr Tinkler have been in talks with the government, including Treasurer Eric Roozendaal’s office, although no proposal has been put to the Hunter Development Corporation, which oversees the Intertrade site.

Minister for the Hunter Jodi McKay is against Mr Tinkler’s plan, and has lashed out at Mr Roozendaal for not announcing the preferred developer of the port land.

The Herald understands a consortium involving Newcastle Stevedores and Anglo Ports has proposed a $600 million development that would entail multiple uses and various cargo for the site, including a container terminal.

Ms McKay said the government had long promised it would be the site of NSW’s next container terminal after Port Botany, but had “never mentioned” a coal-loader before.

She believed some within the government were pushing for a coal terminal at the site rather than the containers, which would go to Port Kembla instead.

Newcastle Port Corporation recently re-exhibited its site concept plan, which sets out several precincts including a container terminal and restricts the site to “boutique coal” or 500,000 tonnes a year.

A spokesman for Treasurer Eric Roozendaal said Treasury had advised that it would “not be appropriate for commercial negotiations to proceed on the Mayfield site during the public consultation period”, not due to end until March 18.

The government enters caretaker period today.