NSW Treasurer Mike Baird has announced shock plans to sell Port Kembla, throwing doubt over the future of one of the Illawarra’s biggest economic contributors.
Mr Baird revealed the proposal today while handing down his second state budget.
He has promised $100 million from the sale - which the Mercury understands could reap as much as half a billion dollars, will be quarantined for infrastructure projects in the Illawarra.
The projects will be determined by Infrastructure NSW later this year.
Mr Baird said the private sector had shown interest in Port Kembla during a scoping study into the privatisation of Port Botany in Sydney.
‘‘Today I can confirm we will extend that scoping study to include a long-term lease of Port Kembla as our advisors indicate that leasing this port could add substantial value to the Port Botany transaction,’’ Mr Baird said.
“Port Kembla is already the entry point for imports of all passenger motor vehicles and located only 80 kilometres from the proposed development of the new intermodal terminal at Moorebank,” he said.
Mr Baird said that the port had ''significant growth potential'' that would be ''more appropriately managed and financed'' by the private sector.
But the maritime union slammed the move as a ''short-sighted policy act of economic negligence and ignorance'' that would ''rob future generations of crucial income
Union national president Paddy Crumlin said the government was looking to ''bundle'' long-term leases of both Port Botany and Port Kembla.
''Bundling these two ports together and then flogging them off to one operator is a license to gouge the national economy and print money," he said.
He pointed to Sydney Airport as an example of what would happen under a privatised port system.
''You can't enter Sydney Airport without being charged. Australia is entering a multi-decade resources boom and the Australian people stand to earn substantial dividends from their investment in ports such as Port Botany and Port Kembla,'' he said.
''Instead of reaping that benefit, Mike Baird is submitting the people of NSW to the macroeconomic equivalent of pay day lending.''