26/07/2005 - 22:00

Port on community collision course

26/07/2005 - 22:00

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As an integral part of Bunbury’s economy and driver of the mining industry in the South West, the Bunbury Port plays an important role in the region.

As an integral part of Bunbury’s economy and driver of the mining industry in the South West, the Bunbury Port plays an important role in the region.

However, reports completed for the City Vision strategy show the port is not embraced by the local community and has little direct positive impact on residents.

The report added the disassociation between the port and the community needed to be addressed in order for the city to move forward.

Over 12 million tonnes moved through the port each year, according to Bunbury Port Authority chief executive Gary Crockford, three quarters of which came from Alcoa and Worsley’s alumina exports.

As the resources industry continues to boom (21 per cent of the world’s alumina supplies come from the South West region) and the port’s activities expand, an inevitable conflict between the interests of industry and the community is rising.

Mr Crockford said the port was not looking to put industry on the part that will impact the local community, and that although the port couldn’t be silent, it had to fit in with the community around it.

Some residents would argue otherwise, with a dispute over a $12 million woodchip mill pitting the local council against the State Government over a proposed second WA Plantation Resources mill.

The Western Australian Planning Commission last month overrode the local council’s objections to the mill, with the council claiming it was sidelined by the State Government.

In addition, the port is looking to expand to include several more berths to facilitate exporting.

“We do want to develop one or two more berths – we serve the region and if the demand is there and people want to export, we will build the facilities,” Mr Crockford said.

He added that the port was considering several proposals for expansion, including becoming the state’s second container port, and facilitating the Griffin Group in their move to coal exporting

“The first stage with Griffin is to get some trials out later this year, and we don’t have the capacity to do that now,” Mr Crockford said.

“The port is driven by mining in the South West and, as mines expand, it provides the opportunity for the port to develop and grow.”

Bunbury Mayor David Smith said the city’s most difficult task was the management of commercial interests against community interests.

“The council represents a community, which includes business interests, and we are constantly looking for feedback to be able to manage the two,” he said.

“We are a pro-development city, and a lot of development is happening and we want to keep it occurring, but ensure the needs of people who live here.”

LandCorp’s Marlston Hill development helped to change the image of Bunbury and, since its completion, there has been a reasonable flood of Perth investment dollars flowing in, Mr Smith said.

“And now people are realising there is more to be made, and a sudden influx of capital means that, as a city, we need to take control of development and ensure a supply of development opportunities,” he added.

He added that the tourism industry remained undercapitalised in the city and a couple of major tourism developments were needed.

“There is a limit to how many jobs the mining and shipping industry will give – we have to take the broadest perspective from which to build our economic base,” Mr Smith said.

According to Mr Smith, some attitudinal changes need to be fostered by the people of Bunbury as well as City Vision.

“Part of what we are trying to do is imbue people to think regionally.  It is no good promoting Bunbury as a place to come for a relaxing weekend; we need to promote the region,” he said.

“If we are going to become a true regional city, we need to be supportive of our region as much as possible.”

City of Bunbury city development executive manager Tony Brun said the city had consulted with several key figures in the development and finance sector and the thing that astounded them was the diversity of the economy.

“As a regional economy, Bunbury is very unique – and we want to use the net advantage of pent up demand to facilitate this development rather than use ratepayers and taxpayers money,” Mr Brun said.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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