Port Kembla expansion moves ahead: councillors oppose motion to delay

Tugs steer the massive Chihiro through the entrance of Port Kembla harbour. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Tugs steer the massive Chihiro through the entrance of Port Kembla harbour. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Wollongong City Councillors voted against a motion calling for a temporary halt to the planned expansion of the Port Kembla port.

At Monday night’s meeting councillor Vicki Curran called for growth at the Port Kembla port to be delayed until the ‘‘demonstrated capacity constraints on the existing rail network’’ was addressed.

Her motion came on the same night that council officers raised concerns about the substantial expansion of the Port Kembla outer harbour.

The proposed expansion, which has been approved by the Department of Planning, would see a 400 per cent increase in bulk cargo.

A council report states that the majority of these goods would be transported by rail with no increase on road transport.

The report states this would increase rail movement from 4.3 to 13 trains per day.

Cr Curran’s motion showed her concern that the current rail infrastructure could not handle this extra traffic and outlined the need for the completion of the Maldon-Dombarton rail link before further port expansion.

Her five-point motion asked for the council to write to NSW Premier Mike Baird, Transport Minister Gladys Berejikilian and Planning Minister Pru Goward requesting a hold be placed on future development at the port until several conditions are met.

These include the production of a Port Kembla Precinct Infrastructure Plan ‘‘that adequately accommodates the increased transport expected and associated with additional growth and port-related activities’’ and a commitment that this infrastructure will be provided.

She also requested council meet with these ministers and establish a Port Kembla Precinct Taskforce. 

Several councillors were opposed to the motion because it called on the government to halt a substantial development in the city.

Cr David Brown said the port expansion would not happen "overnight" and added that this issue was a test on the government's credibility in the region over whether it provided appropriate rail infrastructure.

Cr Ann Martin felt the expansion of the port clearly highlighted the need for the Maldon-Dombarton rail line. She also suggested the government leased the port because it knew there was no way the Maldon-Dombarton line would be created while the port was in government hands.

Cr Leigh Colacino did not want to send the message of "shut it down" because the government may then not bother with improving rail infrastructure and turn its attention elsewhere.

Nor did he see the expansion to 14 million tonnes of bulk cargo as a bad thing.

"How on Earth can that be a negative? That should be embraced as a great positive," Cr Colacino said.

Cr Bede Crasnich agreed: "Fourteen million extra tonnes could equal how many jobs? Quite a lot." He also opposed a delay on the expansion because of the possibility the leaseholder might not restart it later.

Cr Curran's motion was defeated while a motion put forward by Cr Brown was passed.

Cr Brown's motion included having council restate its policy that cargo goes by rail rather than road, that it support the expansion with state and federal governments concurrently developing land transport access and express its concerns to the government over the expansion of the port without the appropriate connectivity.

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