Alternate @ Newcastle……… really thinking ahead………….

Contribution by Greg Cameron from ACT:

In 2000, the NSW government secured ownership of the former Newcastle steelworks site from BHP.  Since that time, the government’s consistent position has been that Newcastle will be the site of the state’s next container terminal after Port Botany container terminal reached capacity.  In 2002, 1.16 million containers were moved through Port Botany and in 2006, expansion to 3.2 million container movements/year was approved by the government.  In 2011, 2 million containers moved through Port Botany.  Last November, the state government announced it was considering a 350% expansion of Port Botany capacity, to 7 million containers/year.

The two intermodal terminal projects proposed for Moorebank are required to service growth in container movements through Port Botany.

Since acquiring the Newcastle site, the state government has argued that the cost of building a container terminal at Newcastle was ”materially higher” than the cost of expanding Port Botany container terminal.  A 22-page Treasury Report ”Review of Proposed Uses of Mayfield and Intertrade Lands at Newcastle Port” was prepared for former Treasurer, Hon Eric Roozendaal, on 4 February 2011.  Several pages of the report were ”leaked” to the Newcastle Herald, which reported (18 February 2011) that ”Treasury had not been provided with a rigorous analysis of the demand forecast for containers and bulk goods”.  However, no cost/benefit comparison between a container terminal at Newcastle and the Port Botany terminal, has ever been released by the NSW government.

Newcastle suffers two transport disadvantages compared with Port Botany.  First, the Newcastle rail system is unsuited to freight.  The solution is to build a freight by-pass of Newcastle between Fassifern and Hexham for the same cost – $200 million – as upgrading the Port Botany rail freight line to Moorebank.  Second, there are numerous bottlenecks impeding the movement of freight along the North Sydney Rail Freight Corridor.  The solution is to remove them.  In December, the commonwealth and NSW governments announced a $1.1 billion project to remove all of the bottlenecks, except those that would allow a container terminal at Newcastle to compete with the Port Botany terminal. 

An opportunity to consider Newcastle as an alternative to Port Botany – and therefore Moorebank – is provided under the Moorebank Project EIS Guidelines.  Section 8 includes the requirement to identify “alternatives considered to the preferred project and impacts arising from the relocation of current uses”. 

Newcastle Intermodal the way to the future

Newcastle Intermodal the way to the future. Time for all Governments to think of the future and the rural communities....Jim Mc

Therefore, might Council consider asking the NSW and commonwealth governments to nominate any alternative that is being considered to the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal; and, if not, would the governments provide their reasons for not considering the Newcastle option?  The NSW government might commence by releasing the 4 February 2011 NSW Treasury Report.

This matter has already been raised with the Premier and Minister for Western Sydney, Hon Barry O’Farrell – see email, below.  Mr Tony Windsor MP has also taken an interest – Mr Windsor recognises that a container terminal at Newcastle would provide regional areas of NSW with benefits.

If Council does not support the proposed inland freight terminals at Moorebank, would it be an appropriate strategy for you to encourage the state and commonwealth governments to give proper consideration to the Newcastle alternative?

Yours faithfully,

Greg Cameron

29 Eddy Crescent

Florey ACT 2615

Tell us what you think, then tell your MP , State & Federal Members do it now!

From: Greg Cameron []
Sent: Monday, 5 March 2012 4:34 PM
To: Hon Anthony Albanese
Cc: Mr Tony Windsor ; Hon Barry O’Farrell ; Hon Nick Greiner ; Hon Simon Crean ; Professor Roy Green ; Mr Gary Kennedy ; Hon Greg Combet ; Ms Sharon Grierson ; Ms Gaye Hart
Subject: Transport infrastructure north/west regions NSW

Hon Anthony Albanese MP

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport

Dear Mr Albanese,

The NSW government is asking Infrastructure Australia to contribute towards the cost of infrastructure for increasing container movements through Port Botany by more than 350% – from 2 million a year to 7 million a year – without considering the needs of regional NSW.

Does the Gillard government believe that people living in regional NSW deserve as much consideration as people living in Sydney for having access to the economic benefits of a container terminal?

If so, will the Gillard government support an investigation into a container terminal at Newcastle with reference to the economic implications for NSW as a whole?

If, as a result of such an investigation, the Port Botany terminal should become available for re-development, it can be used to cater for the 100% increase in air passenger volumes, and the 85% increase in air freight volumes, expected by 2029.  A third parallel Sydney Airport runway is achievable.

As you are aware, Mr Tony Windsor MP, recently drew your attention to my submission to Infrastructure Australia, in relation to Port Botany and the ”Moorebank Intermodal Terminal Project” (enclosed). My submission referenced Mr Windsor’s June 2005 submission to the ”House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport and Regional Services” (enclosed), in which he identified the following projects as being in need of attention:

  1. A major container port distribution centre on the Newcastle Steelworks site with efficient high speed access to the east coast interstate rail network, Sydney region and Central, North and North West regions of NSW.
  1. A new rail line between Fassifern and Hexham as part of the Sydney-Brisbane interstate rail corridor. This line would also be used to take all freight and coal trains out of the Newcastle urban area.
  1. Upgrade of rail and road infrastructure both to and within the port, removing heavy transport from urban areas.
  1. Inland rail terminal at Hexham with access to the interstate rail network for port cargoes and for products to/from Bersefield-Thornton industrial areas and Cardiff Freight Terminal
  1. Development of additional river front land at Kooragang for port and industrial projects
  1. Improved rail infrastructure in the North, North West and Western NSW including:
  • addressing the problems caused by hauling long coal trains and freight trains through Muswellbrook
  • a rail tunnel through the Liverpool Range at Murrurundi
  • upgraded links between Dubbo and Newcastle
  • development of inland ports to serve the North West and Central West regions with high capacity fast rail links to Newcastle

These projects were identified in a 1998 study, commissioned by BHP, by Newcastle Transport Planner, Mr Len Regan.  Mr Regan’s study was titled ”Transport Infrastructure Study for the Hunter, North and West Regions of NSW” (the Study)”.  I was the BHP employee with responsibility for the Study, until November 1999, when the Newcastle steelworks closed and I left BHP’s employment.

In 1997, BHP proposed to develop a Multi-Purpose Terminal (MPT) on its soon to be vacated Newcastle steelworks site.  The 1998 Study revealed how a MPT would create significant economic opportunities for northern NSW by providing access to a container terminal.

During 2000, the NSW government conducted confidential negotiations with BHP (see QON 1088, 11 October 2000, enclosed) to acquire the site.  These negotiations took place while the government was determining BHP’s development application.  The NSW government has controlled the site since 2000.

NSW government policy on the site’s future was revealed in the following Question On Notice in the NSW parliament–

11 October 2000


Mr John Turner to the Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development—

(20) Does the State Government’s policy concerning the Hunter Advantage Strategy indicate that Newcastle would become the main port on the Eastern Seaboard?

The Hunter Advantage Strategy is a document prepared by the Hunter Regional Development Organisation for the Hunter Development Corporation and it does have the following as one of its long-term objectives for the Hunter Region.
“The Hunter will be recognised as the import⁄export gateway for the East Coast of Australia.”

(21) If so, what would be the role of any minor port facility that may be the subject of any development application for the former BHP site?


The development of the BHP multi-purpose freight terminal will be an important step in achieving the long-term objective of being recognised as the import⁄export gateway for the East Coast of Australia.

There are three key impediments to the former steelworks site becoming ”the import/export gateway for the East Coast of Australia”.  The first is the Newcastle rail system, which is unable to cope with rail freight.  The solution is to build a rail freight by-pass of Newcastle between Fassifern and Hexham.  The second is the rail bottlenecks along the North Sydney Rail Freight Corridor.  The solution is to remove them as part of the recently announced upgrade of the ”North Sydney Rail Freight Corridor”.  The third is the rail freight bottlenecks north/west of Newcastle, and the solution is to remove them.

On 5 October 2003, the ”NSW Ports Growth Plan” was announced, which said:

”The former BHP steelworks site at Newcastle Port will be secured for port use. When Port Botany reaches capacity Newcastle will be the state’s next major container facility.

”In 2002/2003 containerised trade through Sydney Ports grew by 15% to 1.16 million TEU.  NSW containerised trade is dominated by the import of consumer goods to service (predominantly) Sydney’s population of 4.15 million.  At current growth rates NSW will need to handle in excess of 3 million TEUs per annum by 2020 – 2025.”

On 18 October 2004, the (former) NSW Treasurer, Hon Michael Egan, wrote that the NSW government had ”decided not to prematurely close off any option for future container expansion at any port. The key issue was not where increased container capacity will be provided but in what order and in what timeframe it should be brought on line” (enclosed).

Mr Egan said one major element of the NSW Ports Plan was ”the identification of Newcastle as the next major container Port following the exhaustion of the capacity available at Port Botany and the reservation of land for that purpose (at the former BHP site).”

Mr Egan said the Government considered several alternative proposals to manage container growth (given a notional expansion target of 1 million teus as a benchmark), which included Newcastle solely: ”The estimated total cost of expanding Newcastle solely (including road and rail costs) was materially higher than for the proposed Port Botany expansion and had higher transport costs both in environmental and customer terms. Lower port development costs (given the availability of a site) were more than offset by the significantly higher cost of road and rail upgrades. Thus, subject to the findings of the [Cleland] Commission, an expansion of Port Botany should occur before a similar capacity expansion at Newcastle.”

In 2006, the NSW government approved expansion of Port Botany to 3.2 million containers a year.

On 18 February 2011, the Newcastle Herald reported on a NSW Treasury Brief that had been ”leaked” to the newspaper-

”The 22-page document titled Review of Proposed Uses of Mayfield and Intertrade Lands at Newcastle Port was prepared for Mr Roozendaal on February 4.

It states that Treasury had not been provided with a rigorous analysis of the demand forecast for containers and bulk goods.

“A 2006 PWC [Port Waratah Coal] study for bulk goods berth on the [Mayfield] site was based on the Newcastle Port Corporation-generated demand forecasts that were not subjected to critical analysis,” the report says.

“A 2003 study [updated in 2009] into container demand to Newcastle identified a total current demand of 266,000 TEU [20 tonne equivalent units] pa, which is dwarfed by the current and potential capacity of Port Botany.”

In April 2011, the NSW government received a proposal from Mr Nathan Tinkler to develop a coal loader on the former steelworks site.  In December 2011, the proposal was rejected by the NSW government.  The Newcastle Herald reported a spokesman for Ports Minister, Hon Duncan Gay, to say that “an announcement on a Newcastle container terminal would be made after the scoping study for the Port Botany [leasing] transaction, due to the government early this year, is completed.”

In November 2011, the NSW government announced that ”Port Botany containerised freight volumes are expected to increase over 3.5 times or by 5.5 million TEU from 2010-11 to 2030-31, subject to an approved increase from the current planning approval limit of 3.2 million TEU per annum.”  In the submission to Infrastructure Australia, the NSW government said: ”To accommodate long term growth an increase in the planning approval is to be progressed which is subject to finalisation of a revised NSW Government ports policy and the normal processes around new planning approvals (such as an EIS, community consultation).”

It is anticipated that the NSW government has already rejected the former Newcastle steelworks site as an alternative to continued expansion of Port Botany.

However, an opportunity to consider Newcastle is provided by the Moorebank Project EIS Guidelines.  Section 8 includes the requirement to identify “alternatives considered to the preferred project and impacts arising from the relocation of current uses”.

The NSW and Australian governments are committing to major expenditure for studies into Port Botany expansion and the Moorebank Project without reference to an alternative.

For example, in its submission to Infrastructure Australia, the NSW Government requested a $28 million contribution (NSW proposing to contribute $7 million) to develop a ”Port Botany and Sydney Airport Improvement Program”.  There is currently no Australian Government commitment to the Program (enclosed).

Infrastructure NSW is currently undertaking a ”Sectoral Strategy Statement” which will be focussed on coordinating short term improvements in the Port Botany/Sydney Airport precinct.  This work uses NSW Government funds and will form part of the overall Program, should it proceed as proposed.

In August 2011, the NSW government asked Infrastructure Australia to provide $210 million for duplication of the Port Botany freight line (enclosed).

In December 2011, it was announced that the Australian government is committing $840 million towards a $1.1 billion upgrade of the Northern Sydney Freight Corridor.  This upgrade will provide sufficient capacity for growth of existing interstate rail services into the medium term, but it will not remove the bottlenecks that prevent Newcastle providing a container service for Sydney.

It is inconceivable that the Fassifern-Hexham rail by-pass of Newcastle will never be built – at similar cost to the proposed Port Botany rail freight upgrade.  In addition to eliminating congestion on the Newcastle rail line, the travel time between Sydney and Brisbane will be lowered by 20 minutes.  It is only logical to also investigate the additional bottlenecks along the North Sydney Freight Corridor that might prevent a major container terminal at Newcastle.

If empty containers can be railed into northern NSW and southern Queensland, they can be filled with goods for export through the Port of Newcastle.  Initially, coal, wheat and other agricultural products can be containerised.  Economic analysis will reveal the potential to develop value-adding export industries, once a container service is available through Newcastle.  It is logical to investigate removal of the bottlenecks that inhibit rail freight from northern and western NSW into Newcastle.

It is a serious concern that the once in a century opportunity provided by availability of the former steelworks site is being ignored by the NSW and Australian governments.  It is hard to imagine why the opportunity should be treated as an afterthought to expanding Port Botany.

The Newcastle opportunity exists because BHP vacated the former steelworks site and embraced ”participative community development”, which, amongst other things, produced the (Regan) Study.  ”Participative community development” was a research program of The University of Newcastle’s ”Employment Studies Centre”, under leadership of Professor Roy Green, until 2000.  The approach is well suited to investigating the economic development opportunities arising from the former steelworks site’s availability.

The opportunities do not necessarily depend on the size of a Newcastle container terminal.  The essential component is removing freight from the Newcastle urban rail system and capability to send empty containers from Moorebank (should that project proceed) north, to be filled with goods for export through Newcastle.  In turn, the significant urban development and light rail transport elements of the Study, which apply to Newcastle, depend on removal of heavy rail from the Newcastle urban system.

To ensure independence from government, it is preferable to access private funds to undertake the necessary feasibility studies.  ”Participative community development” is a management model that has previously been accepted by the Newcastle community and would apply in this instance.

Therefore, while the NSW government is waiting to receive its advice in relation to leasing Port Botany, is it not reasonable to include a Newcastle option?

Will the Gillard government support an investigation into a container terminal at Newcastle with particular reference to its economic implications for all of NSW, and not just Sydney?

Yours faithfully,

Greg Cameron

29 Eddy Crescent

Florey ACT 2615


Mr Tony Windsor MP

Hon Barry O’Farrell MP

Hon Nick Greiner

Hon Simon Crean MP

Professor Roy Green

Mr Gary Kennedy

Hon Greg Combet MP

Ms Sharon Grierson MP

Ms Gaye Hart

px;N �gnhhx�ewpx; margin-bottom: 10px; margin-left: 0px; “>A spokesman for federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says a business case for the commonwealth project will be considered before the budget.

NSW Planning and Infrastructure Minister Brad Hazzard says the Moorebank terminal “is an extremely challenging issue for the state and federal governments”. “There is a strong view that the intermodal is critical to the growth of the NSW economy,” Hazzard says. “But if it is to move forward it requires federal and state government co-operation and working with the proponent of the SIMTA site.”

The Australian Financial Review

About Jim McGoldrick

An Alliance of Residents and Professionals fighting for justice in Australia. Working for people not political parties
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