Backers of new port at Henderson take on wharfies’ claims

Unions and new port supporters differ on the direction of any new container port. Picture: Jon Bassett.
Unions and new port supporters differ on the direction of any new container port. Picture: Jon Bassett.

SUPPORTERS of a new container port at Henderson have rebuffed union and wharfie claims there are decades of life left in Fremantle Port.

The Western Harbour Alliance (WHA) emerged from the public Rethink the Link group, which opposed the 2016 failed Perth Freight Link (PFL) truck route to Fremantle Port.

Wharfies’ concerns were voiced about the State Government’s Westport Taskforce investigation into a second port at a union-dominated Fremantle Town Hall public meeting on August 29, when union flyers said Fremantle could handle trebling annual container traffic to 2.4m, and operate for another 25 years.

But the WHA disagrees.

“Will Fremantle remain the same and stagnate under a barrage of trucks, or will it embrace its amazing heritage, festivals and location to showcase to the world through waterfront developments and tourism with a real flare as only Freo can?” WHA spokeswoman Kim Dravnieks said.

A WHA flyer said WA had to compete with Asian ports’ efficiencies, and the “real issue” was congestion, pollution and noise of more trucks through the city, which the PFL campaign showed residents did not tolerate.

The union flyer argued 87 per cent of port trucks were between 6am and 6pm and their numbers had decreased by 580 daily since 2014, but WHA’s flyer said the emerging industries of lithium and other materials sending up to 230 trucks to the port each day should go to a new port.

The flyer said a new port’s detrimental impact on Cockburn Sound meant no design was recommended by the Environmental Protection Authority, and WHA said the new port would work to rehabilitate the sound .

Today, Maritime Union of Australia WA deputy secretary Adrian Evan said WHA’s reference to efficiencies was made because new port advocates wanted the facility to be a trade and customs-free zone where labour and environmental laws would be relaxed.

Mr Evans said trucks from emerging industries could be reduced by increasing the full containers carried by all vehicles.