AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Opposition would scrap Port Kembla move if elected

<p>Commercial shipping was unlikely to return to East Darling Harbour again, despite state opposition plans to reverse a decision to move vehicle, ro&#47ro and break bulk cargo to Port Kembla, according to Asia World Shipping managing director Ken Fitzpatrick.</p> <p>Opposition planning spokesman Chris Hartcher said last week that the opposition would keep Sydney Harbour as a working harbour if it won office at the March 24 state elections.</p> <p>The move also jeopardises State Government plans to re-develop the 22 ha of land at East Darling Harbour.</p> <p>Port Kembla would be the &#8220winner&#8221, Mr Hartcher said.</p> <p>But Mr Fitzpatrick said this morning (Monday, February 12) that East Darling Harbour and the vehicle imports seemed to be a lost cause.</p> <p>&#8220East Darling Harbour is a very difficult case to save,&#8221 Mr Fitzpatrick said.</p> <p>&#8220As I understand it, there is $160m to $170m of investment at Port Kembla.</p> <p>&#8220I don’t know whether it will be possible to turn the wheel back, certainly as far as the car industry is concerned.&#8221</p> <p>It follows a call by opposition leader Peter Debnam at the Save Sydney Harbour forum last week (Wednesday, February 7) that the decision should not be at the expense of Sydney’s role as a working harbour.</p> <p>Mr Hartcher has since been reported by the <em>Illawarra Mercury</em> as saying that he wanted a three-month review of the move before a decision would be made.</p> <p>But a spokesman from Mr Debnam’s office said that he was not aware of any change to the opposition’s earlier pledge to reverse the decision in full.</p> <p>Illawarra and Sydney business groups have slammed the plan, which they said would strip the Wollongong region of up to $200m of economic benefits and up to 1,000 jobs.</p> <p>The move to Port Kembla is already underway, with construction of new multi-purpose facilities at the port well advanced.</p> <p>Vehicle importers reluctantly confirmed plans last month to go ahead with the shift by 2008. </p> <p>Sydney Chamber of Commerce executive director Patricia Fortsythe said the plan to scrap the East Darling Harbour development was bizarre.</p> <p>&#8220The idea that you have to choose between a working harbour and further development of the city’s commercial centre is wrong,&#8221 Ms Fortsythe said.</p> <p>&#8220There are more sensible options for developing the freight infrastructure needs of the city.</p> <p>&#8220It appears the plans to scrap East Darling Harbour were done without consultation with the business community.&#8221</p> <br />