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Taskforce could target delays in new port facility approvals

<table width="398" border="0"> <tr> <td><p>The length of time it takes to approve expansion of port facilities is set to become a major issue in the prime minister’s task force on export infrastructure bottlenecks. </p> <p>"There have been too many delays, certainly in the regulatory area", Mr Howard said on Friday (March 18), describing a 20-month wait to get a decision on Dalrymple Bay from the Queensland Competition Authority as "ridiculous". </p> <p>Mr Howard also told media that he was not convinced there are as many bottlenecks as some government critics have claimed, but he acknowledged that there may some problems which government was unaware of. </p><p>&nbsp</p><p>John Hirst, of the Association of Australian Ports and Marine Authorities, said as well as regulatory problems, that there are longer-term planning blockages for ports, which need to be tackled.</p> <p>"There is the time that it takes to get new facilities through a raft of approvals, and the lack of any long-term planning in transport," he said. </p> <p>Port land areas must also be maintained, and competition avoided between ports and urban sprawl with proper buffer zones, Mr Hirst said. </p> <p>The Federal Government’s transport infrastructure strategy, AusLink, contains specific transport corridors linking ports, but many experts say that the time needed to select, finance, and tender out AusLink projects is far too long and may not produce results until almost the end of the decade. </p> <p>Sources also point out that Western Australia may suffer the cost of a surfeit rather than a shortage of infrastructure. </p> <p>New mining operations have been unable to win access to the rail networks of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, from the courts and regulators, and will have to duplicate facilities. </p> <p>Stockbroking analysts said the two major miners are likely to claim that their rail operations are already being pushed to 100% capacity by demand. </p> <p>Iron ore producers are also likely to push for streamlined approval of new facilities, he said. </p> <p>Container stevedores have also long maintained that excessive lease costs for terminal land are a cost issue for exports and for further development. </p> </td> </tr> </table> <br />