AN alliance of six councils has called on State and Federal political parties to commit to an outer harbour project and for planning to begin right away.
The Southern Corridor Alliance has been formed to raise awareness of the importance of the project to Perth’s south metropolitan region.
Kwinana Mayor Carol Adams said the infrastructure associated with the outer harbour would have lasting benefits for residents in the region.
“Work on some of the associated infrastructure could begin immediately while the final planning and approvals were secured for the outer harbour, which has been included in State planning documents for more than 20 years,” Mayor Adams said.
“By diverting heavy freight, improving ageing infrastructure, and upgrading key roads, it will make transport links safer, faster and better able to connect our growing communities.
Modelling conducted on the impact of the project showed that it was expected to add an additional 23,000 direct jobs to the local economy and generate indirect employment for nearly 50,000 people.
Rockingham Mayor Barry Sammels said it would attract industry, support increased trade, and position the corridor to take advantage of growing investment in sectors such as agriculture and defence.
Cr Adams said the outer harbour would be an issue in next year’s State election.
“In any election, employment and the economy is front and centre,” she said.
“Given the outer harbour would be one of WA’s most significant job creators this century, in a corridor of high unemployment and increasing population it is essential it remains a permanent part of any economic debate.”
She said the project had national significance.
“This is the right port in the right place and the right time to start this development is now,” she said.
But the alliance has been accused of “playing politics” in its campaign for the outer harbour project, which is not needed for decades, according to Treasurer Mike Nahan.
Responding to calls from the alliance for planning to start on the project “immediately,” Dr Nahan said it was an overflow port to Fremantle.
He said it would not be needed for at least 15 years, and probably much longer and would cost $3-5 billion to build.
“It is time that the councils stopped playing politics, looked after their community and their most important environmental asset, and considered the future of the port appropriately and based on the expert advice.”
He told the Weekend Courier the Kwinana proposal was not a replacement port.
“That means the inner harbour will continue to operate,” he said. “The State Government’s proposal is to treat the inner and outer harbours exactly as they are treated now.
“The Fremantle Port Authority owns and operates the inner harbour now, as well as parts of the outer harbour.”
He said if the State Government paid for the outer harbour prematurely, it would be forced to substantially increase charges at the port.
“This would not only put workers’ jobs at risk but waste taxpayers’ money. I am concerned the councils that represent communities adjacent to Cockburn Sound appear to be ignoring a major environmental impact on the community.”