2008 Overview of Port Expansion (published March 2008) 

Photo of locals sailing Sabots at Yarra bay.

Application forms for the Sydney Ports Corporation(SPC) Port Botany Neighbourhood Liaison Group are now available from  JDziwak@sydneyports.com.au    Applications close 2 June 2008.

‘Community’ representation is limited to 6 and appointments are to be made according to ‘representational categories’.  Applicants are expected to meet a variety of criteria.  Amongst the questions to be answered, applicants are asked to describe a situation where they have needed to “balance environmental, social and business needs.”   Neighbouring commercial chemical company Orica also hosts community forums but it manages to accommodate all community members/ interested parties and it doesn’t choose who attends.   Orica’s consultative committees exist to discuss:  the HCB and carpark Waste; the BIP; the Groundwater contamination;  Southlands;  as well as workshops on water recycling.  Representatives from Fisheries(DPI), the DECC, DNR, Department of Health, Department of Planning, local councils, and a variety of industry based stakeholders also attend.   Orica isn’t perfect by a long shot!  But at least community members don’t have to ‘beg’ to be included.  Orica doesn’t have to hire Sydney Stadium to fit the ‘masses’ who want to participate.  There is usually only a small group of volunteers outnumbered by paid staff from the company, other industries and government.   It has been essential at Orica meetings to hear from and question government agencies.  Yet the SPC committee will have no representation from State government departments.  None from the Department of Environment and Climate Change even though only last month the CSIRO identified Botany and Rockdale as the most highly threatened municipalities in Sydney.  None from the Department of Planning, even though Minister Sartor’s decision in favour of the Sydney Ports expansion overruled the State Government’s own Commission of Inquiry.  None from Fisheries even though Botany Bay was declared a fishing haven in 2002 and the Bay contains significant dive sites such as Bare Island, a Marine Reserve, a Ramsar wetland, in addition to significant marine biodiversity, eg. more fish species than Jervis Bay.  None from the Department of Health even though many fear that the dredging will unleash toxic contaminants and a trebling of truck and rail freight movements will increase air pollution, especially levels of particulate matter, and compromise road safety further for Sydney Buses, walkers, cyclists and motorists.   SPC plays a significant role in determining the health of Botany Bay, recreational pursuits for residents and visitors in and around the Bay, and ‘liveability’ for residents around the Bay.  The Corporation has been a major sponsor of events on Sydney Harbour.  The Harbour is no longer a ‘worker’ so the full focus of attention should shift to Botany Bay.  In Queensland, Port Brisbane Corporation manages a visitor centre http://www.portbris.com.au/community/visitors/introduction.  In 1999 $750,000 was donated to the University of Queensland towards the construction of a new Marine Research Station and Study Centre at Dunwich on North Stradbroke Island. The Port is also a significant sponsor for events in adjoining suburbs.  Not perfect, but we have nothing approaching this in Botany Bay.  Indeed, apart from a small amount of sponsorship which draws more publicity than the equivalent cost of advertising space, SPC has largely ignored Botany Bay communities.   At Port Botany community access has been restricted on the southern end of Prince of Wales Drive and the construction of a third terminal will reduce shoreline access around Penrhyn and Foreshore Beach by around 80%.  This is happening as visitor numbers and demands for recreation increase – mandated under the Eastern Region Strategy of the Metrostrategy as well as the State Plan.  The visitor reserve at Molineux Point is hardly worthy of the title as there is no seating, no shelter, no toilet facilities.  This area, along with Prince of Wales Drive, is closed off to the public at dusk. There is a battle with SPC to get adequate walking and cycling paths between Sir Joseph Banks Park in Banksmeadow and Bicentennial Park in Phillip Bay as well as other connecting pathways.    Does SPC recognise its responsibilities to Botany Bay, its residents and its visitors?  There is no coordinating body for the Bay and SPC has the opportunity to fulfill some of that function by providing a forum and facilitating a network of the major stakeholders (with community included) to address – as a group – the significant issues which we face now and into the future.  SPC already interacts with all the major Botany Bay players – Sydney Airport, Caltex, Orica, Amcor, the various lease holders, government agencies, local government.  There is no reason not to go the extra step and include community and other stakeholders and extend the focus.  The State Government has been deliberating over its study – TOWARDS A STRATEGY FOR BOTANY BAY  http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/plansforaction/pdf/botanybay/bbs_paper_full210504.pdf – since May 2004.  When it finally decides a strategy and forms an independent coordinating body, some of the groundwork could have already been achieved by SPC.   This proposed Port Botany Neighbourhood Liaison Group, as defined in the attached, looks more likely to operate according to the byline – ‘Don’t ask what SPC can do for you but what you can do for SPC’.  As it stands, SPC(State Government) has big problems ahead.  There is no chance of achieving 40% of freight movements by rail and the IPART report confirms this. That means far more trucks than projected in the Environmental Impact Statement. More congestion, more pollution, more accidents – and hence more complaints.  The success of the Penrhyn Bird Habitat Plan is unlikely – hence a $ calculation for a cheap offset has already been made.  Recreation at Foreshore Beach will be compromised – the area accessible by the public is closest to the Mill Pond outlet which records astronomical(in the thousands) faecal coliform counts after the smallest amount of rainfall.  The replacement boat ramp will be shared with tugs.  The chances of eventually seeing an increase in exclusion zones around the port and airport are high.  The State Government, with pressure from fishing groups, will be looking around the La Perouse headland for alternative boat ramps.  There will be more pressure as visitors shift around to this area of the Bay. There is a scramble to approve and construct more short term warehousing close to the port because infrastructure such as intermodals, freeway and tunnel upgrades to make this halfway workable are not currently available and will require $billions in funding. There is no appetite for more dodgy Private Public Partnerships so the projects rely on the sale of public assets.  The truck tunnel from the Port will be politically difficult to sell.  It will be helpful to have a committee containing community volunteers to help legitimise the sales pitch.  The list goes on and all very messy come March 2011.    I don’t believe SPC have made a positive start with this but hopefully there will be a change of direction!  SPC showed an operating profit of over $57million last financial year.   As a State Corporation SPC answers to a board of directors: http://www.sydneyports.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/4381/spc_bod_and_ceo.pdf  and ultimately to its number one shareholder, the treasurer Mr Costa.  There is scope to do much more.   Regarding Community Consultation, the Department of Planning in 2003 published a handbook called: Community Engagement in the NSW Planning System.  It was recognised by Community Groups as a valuable contribution.  Here is the Full link  to the document and website.  

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