23/04/2008 - 22:00

Race for port support

23/04/2008 - 22:00

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As the deadline looms for lodging tenders for the planned Oakajee Port development in the state’s Mid West, capturing community support has been turned up a notch by the main players.

Race for port support

As the deadline looms for lodging tenders for the planned Oakajee Port development in the state’s Mid West, capturing community support has been turned up a notch by the main players.

The two competing parties, Murchison Metals Ltd and Midwest Corporation Ltd, may be coy about their proposals prior to the May 9 closing date, but both have already kicked into gear their campaigns for community support.

It’s all in preparation for the overall $3 billion port and rail infrastructure development that will allow the region’s iron ore miners to develop large-scale export projects.

Last week, Murchison Metals’ preferred infrastructure partner, subsidiary Oakajee Port and Rail (OPR), announced a sponsorship deal with the region’s Great Northern Football League (GNFL).

The deal was negotiated through OPR’s association with the Fremantle Football Club where earlier this month it had signed on as a strategic partner for the year.

“We have decided to make the commitment upfront with the GNFL and also with the Fremantle Football Club, because we want people to understand that we are committed, that we intend to be with you for the long haul,” OPR chief executive Christopher Eves said.

While OPR has banded with one of the state football teams, the sporting theme was kick started by rival Yilgarn Infrastructure Ltd in December last year, when it committed $20,000 to the region’s Chapman Valley Football Club.

The funds allowed for a new coach to be appointed and participation in the 2008 Auskick football program for children aged five to 12.

“We saw it as being important to keep that social fabric alive because it would add to the vibrancy, and it would add to the attraction of people to live in the Chapman Valley shire,” Yilgarn chief executive Andrew Carter said.

Yilgarn has stayed with the regional approach in its community consultations, engaging with surrounding shires and other representatives that form its Stakeholder Group.

It is also looking at skills available within the region and partnering up with training providers to cater for the education and training requirements of young and indigenous people.

Education is also in OPR’s community program, which includes business preparation, and indigenous programs. The key areas were determined by desktop and field studies carried out by sociologists.

Mr Eves said the programs, which are not part of the proposal, will be carried on regardless of which infrastructure provider wins the tender.

“If OPR doesn’t win, the programs will still continue but they may be picked up by Crosslands Resources,” Mr Eves said.

Murchison and Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation jointly own Crosslands, which operates the Jack Hills iron ore mine.

While both parties won’t give too much of their proposal away until after the deadline, Mr Eves said there was also the possibility the government may not choose either party if the proposals were not on the right terms.

However both companies are keen to show their commitment to the region which was burnt by Kingstream Steel’s failed plan to develop Oakajee before it went into administration in 2001.

Both Mr Eves and Mr Carter were aware of the scepticism brought about by Kingstream.

“Its Geraldton’s time now, it really is,” Mr Eves said.

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