On the 5th October, 2003, the Premier of NSW (then Bob Carr) announced the State’s Port’s Growth Plan.  With regard to Botany and Newcastle:

“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”

The Hunter Economic Zone was also established as  an intermodal link to Newcastle Port.

In 2004 -2005 a Commission of Inquiry heard evidence on the suitability of the Sydney Ports preferred expansion of Port Botany.  In May of 2005 Commissioner Kevin Cleland provided his report to then Planning Minister, Craig Knowles. The report recommended against the Sydney Ports design and proposed a more modest expansion that would have seen extensions at the existing terminals and the retention of Foreshore Beach and Penrhyn Estuary.  It was consistent with the intent of the Ports Growth Plan.   At the end of July, Bob Carr retired from Parliament followed in early August by the Deputy Premier and Treasurer, Andrew Refshauge, and a few days after that Craig Knowles.  The report was handed to the new Planning Minister, Frank Sartor.  On the 13th October, 2005, he approved the expansion,  not as recommended by Cleland but  the design preferred by Sydney Ports.  A cap of 3.2 million TEU was part of the Conditions of Consent.  Given the size of the approved footprint it was not a figure that aligned with the actual ‘capacity’ which has been since suggested as approaching 15 million TEU.

Now fast forward to ICAC 2014 and revelations from Jodi McKay, former MP for Newcastle.

Plans silent for BHP site – Ian Kirkwood, Newcastle Starr, May 2, 2014

THE new owners of the Port of Newcastle say it is too early to talk about the future of the former BHP steelworks site that was raised in this week’s Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings.

Canberra-based public affairs analyst Greg Cameron was heavily involved in the original plan to redevelop the steelworks site as a container terminal.

He continues to promote the idea more than a decade later, saying the more container ships that could be shifted from Botany to Newcastle, the better it would be for both cities.

‘‘Newcastle would get the business and Botany could be used to expand Sydney airport,’’ Mr Cameron said yesterday.

The steelworks site is widely regarded as the most important vacant deep-water port frontage on the east coast and its ownership is passing to the consortium of superannuation funds and the Chinese government that was announced this week as the new owner of the Port of Newcastle.

Mr Cameron said he believed the former Labor government  took over the site from BHP in 2000 not to develop it, but to stop a Newcastle container terminal going ahead.

‘‘It was not apparent at the time but with the benefit of hindsight and the evidence that has come out this week in the ICAC – with people on both sides of politics favouring a coal terminal on the site – it’s clear that the people of Newcastle have been betrayed by their governments,’’ he  said.

He said businessman Nathan Tinkler may not have succeeded in putting a coal-loader on the site but the conditions of the Newcastle, Port Botany and Port Kembla leases meant a Mayfield coal-loader remained a real and unwanted possibility.

He said conditions in the Newcastle and Botany-Kembla leases meant that as things stood, a container terminal at Newcastle could only go ahead by compensating the Botany-Kembla owners.

This would stop the new owners of the steelworks site from building a container terminal and revive the spectre of a loader at Mayfield against public will.

The Port of Newcastle has been leased for 98 years to a 50/50 joint venture between the Westpac-backed Hastings Infrastructure Fund and a Chinese government-backed company China Merchants.

A Hastings spokesman said yesterday  that it was too early to look at particular development options for the port, beyond saying the consortium’s focus was on the long-term management of the port as the maritime equivalent of a toll road.

‘‘We’re a long-term investor with a 98-year lease and we’re not looking at this as property developers,’’ the spokesman said.

Container terminal ‘shame’, by Donna Page, Newcastle Herald, May 1, 2014 11.30pm

ICAC reveals Jodi McKay’s betrayal by ALP

ICAC: Liberal official gave cheques to energy minister Chris Hartcher

OPINION: Campaign donor regulations no easy fix

ICAC: Ex-mayor John Tate insists campaign above board

A ‘‘DIRTY tricks’’ campaign to promote Nathan Tinkler’s failed coal-loader bid cost Newcastle the chance at a $600 million container terminal development, a supporter of the proposal said yesterday.

Canberra-based public affairs analyst Greg Cameron said he found it ‘‘astonishing’’ that forces within the former Labor government were working against the proposal because they thought there was more money to be made from a coal-loader on the former steelworks site.

Mr Cameron was speaking after hearing evidence given at the ICAC yesterday where it was alleged former Labor member for Newcastle Jodi McKay was undermined by her colleague Joe Tripodi and the Tinkler Group because of her support for the container terminal.

‘‘It’s hard to believe that for some people the purpose of the exercise was to destroy the container terminal proposal so it could be used for coal,’’ he said.

‘‘Being honest you sort of get blindsided by these things, I never thought of it that way. It’s a terrible shame for the region, which has lost a great opportunity.’’

Mr Cameron, a former BHP manager, was involved with the original plan for a container terminal on the former Newcastle steelworks site, which was first proposed in the mid-1990s.

The Newcastle container terminal was a key part of Labor’s port planning a decade ago but enthusiasm has waned since then, with both Labor and Coalition state governments approving further expansions of the Botany container terminal.

Mr Cameron still supports the Newcastle container plan, which he says would provide a big boost to the city while freeing valuable port-side land at Botany.

‘‘Not having a container terminal has stunted 20 years of manufacturing growth for the region, it can only be described as a catastrophe,’’ he said. ‘‘Investment does not occur for manufacturing for export unless there is fast, efficient world-class container terminal access.’’

3 Responses to “Port Botany – Port Newcastle – Infrastructure Decision-Making and the Winter of 2005”
  1. Michael W McLean says:

    I agree with Greg Cameron’s view and historical perspective on the BHP Newcastle site-redevelopment plan as an inter-modal port. I was asked by BHP as a management consultant, to facilitate a Stakeholder Workshop to capture the diverse current needs and future expectations for redevelopment of the site.

    The Business Plan on a Page was developed and submitted to then BHP CEO and also then NSW Government.

    The story above is basically the sad outcome to what transpired and Greg’s last paragraph is so sobering.

    I have to add, I was also a consultant and advisor to BHP Rod & Bar Division from 1987 till its cessation of operations out brought out US experts to build skills for the High Carbon Steel products for steel belted tyre exports; various ‘TQC’ Business Improvement Team Projects and other ‘Pathway’ initiatives.

    The latter was to build skills through better steel making and personal development strategies for when the announced closure would mean redundancies. This ground-breaking corporate strategy at the time (lessons for others when faced with imminent contractions), so people would have a Skill Passport if they sort other employment in diverse industries in the Hunter or elsewhere.

    Commendable and both the Site Redevelopment Plan on a Page and Pathways were developed consistent with the then recently written and announced “BHP Charter” by Paul Anderson CEO.

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