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Committee presses Carr government on key port questions

<p>A New South Wales parliamentary report on the state’s port infrastructure has pressed the State Government for answers on key port development questions, including how it plans to increase rail movements out of Port Botany, and the future of the Glebe Island car terminal.</p> <p>The Upper House Standing Committee on State Development inquiry into port infrastructure was set up on a motion from the Greens after premier Bob Carr announced the state Ports Growth Plan in October 2003.</p> <p>The final report released on Friday (June 17) has 18 recommendations. </p> <p>The committee noted the "particular challenge facing the government in its commitment to increase the proportion of container freight being carried by rail to 40% by 2011".</p> <p>It said: " the committee urges the NSW Government to release as soon as possible the means by which the Government intends to achieve the increased rail transport". </p> <p>The committee also called for the State Government to make a long-term decision on the future of the Glebe Island car terminal beyond its lease options to 2017, and to compare this with the economics of moving to Port Kembla. </p> <p>The Carr Government plan sees car operations progressively relocating to Port Kembla, although both the automotive and shipping industries have been sceptical of the cost of servicing the Sydney market from the South Coast. </p> <p>The P&#38O Ports and Patrick stevedoring joint venture told the committee the lease on Glebe Island should be extended to 2023 to amortise the new terminal investment called for by both the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries and major car carrier operator Wallenius Wilhelmsen. </p> <p>Sydney Ports Corporation chief executive Greg Martin said that dealing with future ro-ro operations, including future investment in Glebe Island to handle non-auto ro-ro cargoes in its present lease period, is "one of the most difficult areas" for the port to manage since the growth plan.</p> <p>However, Tthe majority of the committee said that all the evidence that had been heard suggested that there are "major employment and economic benefits" in moving to Port Kembla, despite the industry’s preference for staying at Glebe. </p> <p>The committee said that further analysis of the viability of Glebe should be set against the Port Kembla option, though the opposition members of the committee said that the future of Glebe Island should be guaranteed regardless.</p> <p>The committee said it supported incremental development of the port of Newcastle. </p> <p>Submissions from the Newcastle area said that the port’s proposed multi-purpose terminal is needed to handle cargo from the Hunter region, though the committee noted that if the expansion of Port Botany did not go ahead, then the multi-purpose terminal should be expedited. </p> <p>Leading community group Save Botany Beach has criticised the committee for not addressing the final capacity of Port Botany. </p> <p>Though the State Government’s environmental impact statement target for the Port Botany expansion is 3.5m teu, the recent Clelland inquiry hearings saw the stevedores claim they could handle 3m teu without any reclamation and a potential 8m teu with reclamation. </p> <p>The Port Growth Plan sees further container growth moving to Newcastle once Port Botany is full.</p> <p>But Save Botany Beach’s Jon Staples criticised the committee for failure to specify what Port Botany’s final capacity should be, and to press for an official cap to be put on that capacity. </p> <p>The committee did get it right, she said, in calling for a dedicated rail line from Newcastle to Sydney so that port growth could be transferred to the northern port. </p> <br />