07/01/2011 - 10:59

PM unveils national port strategy

07/01/2011 - 10:59

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State and territory governments will be asked to sign off on a new national ports strategy unveiled by Prime Minister Julia Gillard today in Kwinana.

PM unveils national port strategy

State and territory governments will be asked to sign off on a new national ports strategy unveiled by Prime Minister Julia Gillard today in Kwinana.

The first-ever national strategy for Australia's ports was described as a plan "for the decades ahead" by Transport and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese, who will have responsibility for implementing the strategy.

But it will first need the approval of the states and territories who are responsible for ports and planning.

Ms Gillard also took the opportunity of her visit to Kwinana to confirm the Commonwealth would contribute $135 million towards the rebuilding and modernisation of WA's grain rail network.

Farmers in WA produce more than 40 per cent of the nation's grain and more than 90 per cent is shipped overseas.

"Once completed, the upgraded rail network will mean lower transport costs for farmers," Ms Gillard said.

It also would deliver wider community benefits such as fewer trucks on the WA roads.

The government's port plan comes on the back of estimates the volume of trade moving through Australia's biggest ports is expected to triple during the next 20 years.

"It is time for the way we plan and oversee our ports to change," Ms Gillard said during a visit to Kwinana Port in Western Australia.

Under the strategy, port operators will be required to publish 15 to 30 year master plans that detail the expected growth in trade activity as well as the facilities required to handle that growth.

State and local planning authorities will be asked to implement buffer strategies to prevent urban encroachment on ports as well as the road and rail corridors that service them.

In a bid to avoid unnecessary delay in the delivery of new port facilities, the commonwealth will ensure that its environmental assessment process is carried out concurrently with those of the states.

The performance of ports will be regularly measured and compared to their international counterparts through a national data collection system.

State and territory leaders will be asked to approve the strategy at a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in February.

Ms Gillard said the absence of a national coordinated approach had prevented some ports from expanding because not enough land was set aside for growth.

"Also, too little thought has gone into planning the road and rail links needed to support their activities," she said.

"The resulting bottlenecks ... are hurting Australia's economic performance, causing lower productivity, slower growth and the loss of billions of dollars in export earnings."

For a trading island nation the economic importance of ports could not be overstated, Ms Gillard said.

"Already, they manage 10 per cent of the world's sea trade and almost all our imports and exports flow through them."

The strategy has been developed by Infrastructure Australia and the National Transport Commission.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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