Experts guide future of Fremantle Port

05/03/2009 - 10:53

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A new expert group has been established by the state government to guide the future expansion of Fremantle Port.

A new expert group has been established by the state government to guide the future expansion of Fremantle Port.

The Fremantle Ports Optimum Planning Group will develop recommendations for the long-term trade needs of Fremantle Ports and surrounding areas.

Speaking to the panel for the first time yesterday, Transport Minister Simon O'Brien indicated he is keen to have some advice or recommendations by the middle of the year.

The Minister said the planning group would begin work immediately and report directly to him.

It will be chaired by former Main Roads Commissioner Greg Martin and include Department of Planning and Infrastructure director general, Eric Lumsden and WA Port Operations Taskforce chairman, Professor Fred Affleck.

Fremantle Ports Optimum Planning Group chairman, Greg Martin said it is going to take time to assemble the information and draw some conclusions.

"It'll be a strategic exercise, certainly in the first period, because if we got lost in detail then we wouldn't be able to see where there were gaps or where there were conflicts that needed to be thought through and reconciled if at all possible," Mr Martin told WA Business News.

Speculation has been mounting in recent weeks that the land-backed facility proposal put forward by the Len Buckeridge-led private consortium, James Point was poised to receive the final nod of approval for the development of both stages one and two of its project.

However, Mr Martin was quick to dismiss any notion of a front-runner in receiving government approval.

"Clearly, Fremantle Ports have done a lot of work with their proposals which have been very public, and clearly James Point has done a lot of work and are very clear to progress their project," he said.

"So I think the urgency for government is to get some advice about how those various plans relate to one another and I suppose, from both particular proposals perspective, what should go ahead and can they compliment one another or where they are potentially in conflict.

"My understanding of our role is to conduct a study, investigate, do some analysis, develop some recommendations and clearly it's up to government to make decisions.

"I wouldn't presume to say the government is necessarily going to accept what we put forward because I don't know what we're going put forward either at this time."

The Minister said the expert group he's assembled will identify all the options available and enable the Government to remove uncertainty and plan the way ahead.

"For too long Fremantle Ports and James Point Pty Ltd have worked in isolation and this group will involve both parties in future port planning," Mr O'Brien said.

"It is critical our port infrastructure needs are properly examined to ensure the best outcomes for the state.

"The recommendations of the expert group will help the government ensure adequate future port and related infrastructure for Perth."

Mr O'Brien said the group would consult widely with all interested parties including, Fremantle Ports, James Point, local government, state government agencies such as Main Roads, transport operators and stevedores.

The group's specific objectives would include an examination of:

- the optimum facilities in the Outer Harbour to cater for the needs of container and other trades into the future, including an examination of Fremantle Ports' Kwinana Quay and James Points' proposals
- the optimum road and rail transport links to service these facilities
- land requirements in the Outer Harbour area to support long-term port needs for services such as intermodal terminals and container parks
- the cost of providing the optimum facilities
- likely timeframes for developments
- an appropriate delivery strategy outlining the recommended roles for Government and the private sector in the delivery of the facilities.

The Minister said there would be a detailed assessment of issues should container trade and some other trades be relocated from Fremantle to Kwinana.

"This will look at the economic, financial, environmental, operational and social issues, as well as the timing, if transfer of particular trades is seen as appropriate," Mr O'Brien said.

However, Opposition Infrastrusture spokesperson Alannah MacTiernan said Mr O'Brien has ignored the biggest study of metropolitan freight and accommodated liberal commitments in establishing this new panel.

"Mr O'Brien has set up a committee to plan for the Fremantle Port's road and rail linkages - precisely the work that was done through the Metropolitan Freight Review between 2001-2003," Ms MacTiernan said.

"That review, which involved industry and community, produced a six point plan which included the development of the Fremantle Outer Harbour Container Facility by 2015."

Ms MacTiernan said the Labor Government then began the detailed Outer Harbour planning for the Port facility in 2004 and committed to the $1.3billion project.

"Mr O'Brien has two agendas that have led him to establish this committee," she said.

"Firstly he wants to accommodate the generous Liberal supporter, BGC, in its aspiration to dominate the port development.

"His second is delivery of his ill considered promise to close down the container terminal of Fremantle and turn Rous Head into a housing development.

"The State's strategic interest must not take second place to the Liberal Party's interest to keep donors on side or to meet foolish promises."

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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