Newcastle has yet to be given a clear view of the impacts of the 98-year lease of Newcastle Port to a consortium including China Merchants Group, a state owned corporation of People’s Republic of China, what the terms of the agreement between the new lessees and the NSW Government are, and the potential impacts on the Newcastle community.
Newcastle Port today
Prior to the port agreements the changes made in the three port SEPP included:
- Self assessments and approvals from $30m to $100m for infrastructure.
- Increase in self-assessing of dredging works up to 100,00 cubic metres.
It has also been acknowledged that due to the lease agreements of Port Botany and Port Kembla there will be no container terminal as part of Newcastle Port’s future.
Yellow land shown is part of the 98 year port lease agreement.
The questions yet to be answered been answered include:
- How will water quality be impacted in the Hunter River due to the to the lessee’s self assessed dredging?
- What will be the impacts on the adjacent internationally listed RAMSAR wetlands?
- What will be the human health impacts on workers and nearby residents from port activities including the transport of goods to and from the Port? This includes the consideration of the transport of coal through residential suburbs.
- How will monitoring and reporting on environmental health be delivered?
- How will the lessee instigate appropriate measures to ensure the protection of citizens? This includes addressing contamination and toxic residue as a result of past industrial practices.
- What will the economic benefits to Newcastle, the Hunter region and the State be in of leasing the Port to private enterprise beyond the initial payout of $1.7b?
China Merchants has been responsible for massive port developments all over the world. Given the amount of money paid for the lease on the Port of Newcastle we can expect a massive expansion and development, not just of port operations but also the development of additional heavy industry on the vacant land held by the Port as they seek to gain a return on that investment.
Hong Kong Port
Despite consistent community representation to government over the last few years government has failed to appropriately consider present and future options and management considerations related to Newcastle Port activity. As a result local ecology, human health, social cohesion and economic robustness have been compromised.
The Newcastle community will need to remain vigilant to ensure that development is appropriate for the whole of Newcastle now that the NSW Government has abrogated its responsibility.